Headlines > News > SpaceShipOne designer says Earth\'s rules stifle space travel

SpaceShipOne designer says Earth\'s rules stifle space travel

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Mon Dec 6, 2004 9:07 am
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chabot imageBy Lisa M. Krieger KNIGHT RIDDER

Sending the first commercial rocket soaring into space isn’t so hard, aircraft designer Burt Rutan told a classroom of San Jose State University engineering students last week.

But dealing with all the earthly regulations — now, that’s tough.

“The guys who wrote the laws never built anything,” scoffed Rutan, whose SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize. The ship, funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, took two 64-mile-high flights beyond Earth’s atmosphere to win the prize.

“By the time NASA finally gets back to the moon, we’ll have resort hotels there,” he said.
Rutan has a $100 million contract with British billionaire Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic Airways to build five new vehicles for a commercial passenger space line.

To a rapt audience of young astronaut wannabes, he narrated videotape of one of the rocket’s landmark trips, making it sound as easy as a trip to the grocery store.

“The pilot rolled 29 times but you don’t really feel it, ’cause your head’s in the center of the rotation,” said Rutan. “And you don’t see it, because where you’re looking out, it’s all black,” he said. “It’s kind of weird.”
As the vehicle accelerated, he explained: “See, the pilot’s head is shaking pretty good. That’s ’cause he’s at 51/2 G’s,” Rutan said, referring to the force of gravity. “You can see the mask over his face shaking around.”

Safety remains a big issue. “But it’s not a good time to kill a pilot, when the whole world’s watching,” he said.
Costs have to be brought down. The ultimate goal is to offer space-tourism flights in the $10,000 to $15,000 price range.

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