Sunday, July 04, 2004

Economist coverage of SpaceShipOne

The first two articles were written in Mojave, California on the 21st of June at the historic launch of SpaceShipOne. About 30,000 people turned up to watch what they hoped was the birth of private space travel. The third article was intially written as a preview article on the 17th for The Economist's website Global Agenda, and updated after the launch. When Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne, read it he said it was the best article he had seen on the subject.

I spoke Mr Rutan for the first time only after I had filed these pieces. A difficult man to get hold of. He told me that the problems that SpaceShipOne faced on the last test flight, while serious, did not look as though they would be too difficult to fix. I asked him about the future of SpaceShipOne after the Ansari X-Prize attempt and he basically said this would be in the hands of the company, owned by Paul Allen, that owns it. Ultimately, it is likely to end up in a museum. But what might happen to the craft before then is anyone's guess at the moment. Mr Rutan did not think it would ever operate as a commercial space tourism vehicle, but he did say it might do a bit of "barnstorming" for millionaires.

The Starship Free Enterprise
A milestone in the birth of a new kind of space age
(From The Economist print edition) Jun 24th 2004

Up, up and away
Private enterprise has launched a man into space—inspiringly cheaply
(From The Economist print edition) Jun 24th 2004

Lift-off for enterprise
A rocket backed by a high-tech entrepreneur has successfully completed the first commercial manned flight beyond the earth’s atmosphere—days after a commission set up by President Bush called for NASA to hand over many space-exploration activities to the private sector
(Web only: From The Economist Global Agenda) Jun 21st 2004

Other space articles
Old, unsafe and costly
It is time to admit that the shuttle has failed, and move on
(From The Economist print edition) Aug 28th 2003