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40 buses heading for SpaceShipOne liftoff

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Sun Oct 3, 2004 1:45 pm
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chabot imageavpress.com: When SpaceShipOne makes its historic attempt at a second suborbital flight within one week on Monday, 1,411 elementary school students, parents and teachers from the Rancho Vista area will be watching from the tarmac, thanks to developer R. Gregg Anderson of Rancho Vista Development.
If the Mojave-built spacecraft reaches its target altitude of 328,000 feet, or 100 km, it will win the $10 million Ansari X-Prize, which is aimed at jump-starting a commercial space tourism industry. To win, a team must launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people (or a pilot and the equivalent weight of two passengers) into suborbital space and landing successfully, then repeating the flight with the same craft in less than two weeks. SpaceShipOne made its first official attempt on Wednesday, reaching an altitude of 337,500 feet.

Anderson will provide buses for students from three Westside Elementary District schools: Rancho Vista, Esperanza and Hillview. He opened the trip up to “any and every” student at those schools, which all serve residents in the Ranch Vista Development area.

“It’s a chance to see history being made, and how often does that happen?” said Regina Rossall, superintendent of Westside Union School District. “It’s a wonderful educational opportunity for the kids, and something difficult for us to fund, so Mr. Anderson’s generosity is just amazing.”

The school district got the offer from Anderson on Wednesday morning – the day SpaceShipOne made its first successful X-Prize launch – and has been in a frenzy ever since, sending out permission slips and arranging chaperones. The event will be an official field trip, and teachers will go along, as will the superintendent.

The turnout may be more than Anderson could have hoped for.

“It looks like it’s liable to be 1,500 to 2,000 kids. So it’s not one bus, it’s more like 40 of ‘em,” he said on Thursday.

The convoy will leave from Rancho Vista Golf Course at 5 a.m. on Monday, in time for the 7 a.m. launch, and will return shortly after SpaceShipOne lands.

Anderson declined to say how much the outing will cost his company, which is bearing the entire expense, but described the price tag as “huge.”

USA Bus Charter, based in Solana Beach, will provide the buses. On Thursday, the company was still working to pull together enough coaches and drivers to get everyone from Rancho Vista to the Mojave Airport.

A representative of USA Bus Charter declined to say how many buses there would be or to indicate a final cost while logistics were still being arranged.

After watching SpaceShipOne become the first privately funded, manned spacecraft in June and subsequent flight on Wednesday, Anderson decided local students needed the chance to see history firsthand.

“With the success of the first two launches, and out of admiration for (SpaceShipOne designer) Burt Rutan and what he’s done throughout the world, it occurred to me that we ought to do whatever we can to make it available to kids,” Anderson said.

Awe filled the developer’s voice as he spoke of Rutan, whose Scaled Composites company built SpaceShipOne with funding from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

“I think Burt Rutan ought to be nominated for the science portion of the Nobel Prize,” Anderson said. “I really think this guy’s a genius and something like that would be appropriate.”

Anderson hopes that seeing SpaceShipOne win the X-Prize will help students better understand their own community.

“The Antelope Valley has a long history of supporting the aerospace and defense industries, and this is a major event that’s being viewed worldwide, and so I think it’s important that we make this event available to parents and students,” he said.

Superintendent Rossall said the schools will not pass up the opportunity.

Students will have the chance to “understand all the science and math that goes into something like this,” Rossall said. “It’s a great direct application of things they learn in the classroom. It’s great for kids to see how their education applies.”

Like the thousands of people who drove in to see Wednesday’s launch, Rossall is excited just to watch history being made.

“I was lucky enough that I was principal of Valley View when the Voyager took off,” Rossall said. The landmark craft, also designed by Rutan, landed at Edwards Air Force Base on that flight, which Rossall got to watch with a group of students. “It’s just a great learning opportunity to see things as they actually happen.”

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