Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Surly Bonds of Earth 

We are living in very exciting times. Just yesterday, SpaceShipOne carried Mike Melvill into the record books as the first civilian space pilot. Soon, the team from Scaled Composites will make its official attempt at the X Prize. $10 million goes to the winner.

Now, NASA might pony up some cash prizes of its own, for reaching other milestones.

This is just the kind of boost needed by the budding civilian space industry. Cash prizes drove the rapid advances of aviation's "golden age." Today, we might be witnessing the beginning of a second golden age, the golden age of space exploration.

That prospect excites me like few things can. There's no telling what kind of innovation will spring forth as teams compete for the cash, and more importantly, the prestige of winning one of these prizes. The winners of the prizes, as the first to successfully prove their technology, will become industry leaders, so the incentive to engage in some bold and radical engineering is huge. Hold on... this could get interesting.
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