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A day at the space show

Published by Robin on Tue Oct 11, 2005 7:26 pm
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By Jeff Foust, The Space Review
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”
— “Nuke” LaLoosh, Bull Durham
Since well before SpaceShipOne captured the $10-million Ansari X Prize a year ago, the X Prize Foundation has been focusing much of its attention on its follow-on effort, the X Prize Cup. Modeled after the air races of the early 20th century, the Cup was intended to encourage X Prize teams not in running to win the prize itself to continue their efforts, helping promote a diversity of technical and operational approaches to passenger suborbital spaceflight. Such a competition, its backers hoped, would also provide a great deal of entertainment value for the public, bringing in sponsorship money and a higher profile in the media.

Those efforts got off to a modest start on Sunday in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with the Countdown to the X Prize Cup and Personal Spaceflight Expo. As the name suggests, this was not the competition promised for the full-fledged X Prize Cup — that will have to wait a few years — but instead an exhibition of the potential of the personal spaceflight industry. However, while the event was not competitive, the day was not without its winners, losers, and those who never got off the ground.

An air show with rockets
If anything, Sunday’s event at Las Cruces International Airport—a grandiose name for a modest general aviation facility about 15 kilometers west of town—was much more like the air shows typically seen at Air Force bases around the country than a spaceflight competition. There were static displays on the ground, flight demonstrations, and even a flight by an F-117 stealth fighter (which was the fastest, and with the exception of some weather balloons the highest-flying, vehicle at the event.) If you didn’t seen the spacecraft models on display on the tarmac, you might have simply thought this was something like a smaller version the Amigo Airsho, taking place the same weekend at an Army airfield an hour’s drive away in El Paso.

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