Saturday, October 16, 2004
SpaceShipOne: Instapundit Glenn Reynolds highlighted this interview of SpaceShipOne designer -- and Cal Poly alum -- Bruce Rutan.
Rutan not only has a talent for aircraft design, but also experience in knowing what works:
Over the decades, Rutan said, despite the promise of the Space Shuttle to lower costs of getting to space, a kid’s hope of personal access to space in their lifetime remained in limbo.
“Look at the progress in 25 years of trying to replace the mistake of the shuttle. It’s more expensive. . . not less. . . a horrible mistake,” Rutan said. “They knew it right away. And they’ve spent billions. . . arguably nearly $100 billion over all these years trying to sort out how to correct that mistake. . . trying to solve the problem of access to space. The problem is. . . it’s the government trying to do it.”
Exactly. When I was covering Vandenberg Air Force Base 10 years ago for The Lompoc Record there was always talk about someday there taking place hundreds of launches a year -- but that the needed infrastructure wasn't in place. There was demand for access to space, but there are only so many launch pads, even on a huge base like Vandenberg, and each rocket took at least a couple of months to assemble on the pad.
Orbital Sciences Corp. has been using the SpaceShipOne model for more than a decade now with a Lockheed L-1011 jet serving as the "first stage" for its Pegasus XL rocket. With the success of SpaceShipOne, it appears as though other companies would be well advised to look at that model.
Space exploration is becoming exciting again -- thanks to Rutan. (And the fact that I no longer have to get up at midnight and drive to Vandenberg and sit out in the cold waiting for a 3 a.m. launch that will probably be scrubbed due to high winds -- those were the days.)