Monday, June 21, 2004
It doesn't sound like much; a small two-man spacecraft, launched from a larger craft, achieved a few minutes of spaceflight. It reached the 62-mile barrier of our atmosphere and then slowly began its descent.
The reality is much greater: For the first time, a private interest has successfully launched and recovered a manned spacecraft. Piloted by Michael Melvill, a veteran test pilot, the craft SpaceShipOne essentially duplicated the Alan Shepard flight on Freedom 7, a simple suborbital launch and recovery. Except this time it was a self-powered craft that was able to control its descent.
This opens the door to an unlimited future. Up to now, space exploration has been the playground of governments. Now, potentially, we could see the day that a private concern is able to launch and maintain a space station, or perhaps reach and install a base on the moon. To explore the heavens without government interference is now a reality. The possibilities are limitless. We stand on the edge of an explosion in space travel and exploration.