LEAVING THE CRADLE
Colorful Entrepreneurs Fund
Commercial Manned Spaceflight
by Edward Driscoll, Jr.
In 1911, Russian space pioneer
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky famously
wrote, “The Earth is the cradle of
humanity, but mankind cannot stay in
the cradle forever.”
NASA’s early space program
culminating in the 1969 landing on
the moon was something of a false
start — much was accomplished, and
then essentially abandoned for
budgetary reasons. The Space Shuttle
today seems both a limited and dated
technology, and NASA’s current
resources leave little room for
expansion. But if Burt Rutan, Paul
Allen, and Richard Branson have their
way, private industry will be taking its
own first baby steps in helping
mankind leave the cradle.
Rutan is the veteran aviation
designer who won the $10 million
Ansari X Prize in 2004, which called
for a reusable manned spacecraft
to fly to the edge of space ( 100
kilometers/62 miles) twice within
two weeks. His SpaceShipOne
design fulfilled those requirements
by flying on September 29th and
October 4th of 2004, with a pilot
and approximately 400 pounds of
weight to simulate the weight of
two crewmen. Paul Allen of
Microsoft personally funded Rutan’s
Scaled Composites ( www.scaled.
com) — the company that built
SpaceShipOne and owns the technology behind it.
The flamboyant Branson created Virgin Galactic ( www.virgingalac
tic.com) to put that technology to
Refer to the photos above:
PHOTO A. SpaceShipOne in feather
mode prepares for re-entry from space.
Video capture courtesy of Vulcan
Productions/Discovery Channel .
PHOTO B. SpaceShipOne is shown
gliding back to base during flight 15P in
an air-to-air photograph. Photo courtesy
of Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network.
PHOTO C. SpaceShipOne sits on the
ramp on its landing gear.
PHOTO D. Shown just before touchdown
at 90 mph, SpaceShipOne returns to the
PHOTO E. SpaceShipOne lands in front of
a crowd of 27,500 people after its first
flight to space. Photo courtesy of Jim
March 2006 67