As I am typing this, SpaceShipOne, America's first privately-funded spaceship, has just completed its third trip into space, and has tenatively won the $10million Ansari X Prize.
The whole purpose of the X Prize is to generate interest in private exploration of space, much like the original challenge did for air travel in the 1920's. The new civilian astronauts of SpaceShipOne are the Charles Lindbergs of the 21st century, and hopefully they will do much to hasten the development of more private ships to do what NASA refuses to do.
I have a few suggestions on the next goals for the people behind SpaceShipOne...
1. Offer to fix the Hubble Telescope. NASA wants to let our first and best space telescope die a slow death rather than daring to risk a shuttle mission to fix it. If NASA doesn't want to fix it, they can lay claim to it.
2. Pay the International Space Station a visit. Maybe ask the two astronauts there if they want to pop on down for some dinner and some fresh air before taking them back up over the weekend. It takes NASA months to set up and launch a shuttle, but we've just proven that we can get a ship up there in a matter of days!
3. Offer to make more civilian astronauts. Hey, SSO can hold three people! Offer $10,000 to put you in space for a few minutes and make you an official astronaut. How many former Air Force and Navy pilots with dreams of being the next John Glenn were turned away from NASA? Well we can fix that now. And the more these guys that become civilian astronauts, the more opportunities to get OTHER private vessels into space.
All in all, guys, this is a GREAT moment for space travel and a GREAT moment for private industry.
And I need to remind you that today is also the anniverary of the launch of Sputnik, the Soviet satillite that shocked the world. Today the world isn't shocked... but I'm sure that the paper-pushers at NASA are just a little on edge right now. They've just lost their monopoly.
And yes, it is good.