Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Witness to Disruption.

A week ago today I stood on the edge of a runway in Mojave, and watched an aircraft straight out of a science fiction novel carry aloft a small rocket. As the aircraft, known as White Knight, circled overhead I told my son he was about to witness history being made (actually, he was just as interested in pounding dirt clouds with the other 5 years olds, but he did pay attention at all the right times). Then, the loudspeakers alerted the gathered pilgrims that separation had occured, and as we looked north east we saw SpaceShipOne blast into space, traveling at 2500 mph and creating and exclamation mark of a contrail that signified a changed world. We listen breathlessly as the commentators wondered about the high spin rate, relaxed a bit when we heard the wings had feathered properly, and rejoiced at the thunder of a double sonic boom.
Flight X1 for the Ansari Xprize was complete!

Since then Burt Rutan and Paul Allen's team has again successfully launched and landed SpaceShipOne, claiming the $10 Million Dollar prize. Perhaps more importantly, they have signed an agreement with Virgin Galactic (thats right, GALACTIC) to build 5 new spacecraft to open up space to the rest of us.

Things are different today than they were a week ago. When asked what it felt like to be a furry little mammal in the end of the age of dinosaurs, Rutan responed "The Boeings and Lockheeds of the world probably thought we were a bunch of homebuilders. I think they're looking at each other right now and thinking, "We're screwed!"". Rutan message was clear....the world is different now, Boeing, Lockheed, NASA, all have a lot more competition and they are agile, hungry and ready. The Red Queen has spoken.

A Giant Leap for Burt Rutan


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