From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul> Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 07:14:39 -0800 Fwd Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 14:39:53 -0500 Subject: Private Spacecraft Could Launch This Summer Source: The Star Tribune - Minneapolis http://www.startribune.com/stories/484/4684382.html Last update: March 28, 2004 at 9:58 AM Private spacecraft could launch this summer Betsy Taylor, Associated Press ST. LOUIS -- The reward is great but so is the risk. Some of the 27 teams pursuing the $10 million X Prize for the first privately funded manned spaceflight are closing in on a goal that once seemed outlandish, and organizers believe a space trip could be attempted as early as summer. Announced eight years ago, the goal is to build a craft that can carry three passengers 62.5 miles above the planet, then make a second suborbital trip within two weeks. "It's going to happen in 2004. Someone will win it," said Gregg Maryniak, director of the St. Louis-based X Prize Foundation, which was created to spark development of reusable spacecraft that can take civilians into space. Many of the teams have conducted test launches -- one U.S. entry propelled a craft to 68,000 feet, or about 13 miles. Crews from seven nations are pursuing the prize. It's a diverse assemblage. Teams range from one financed by a billionaire to a group of scraped-together volunteers. Several boast leading minds who toss around aerospace terms with dizzying precision; others lament unexpected fires and explosions as part of the learning process. Brian Feeney, 44, is team leader of the Toronto-based da Vinci Project. In its simplest terms, the group plans to lift a craft called Wild Fire using an immense helium balloon. The design switches over to rockets to fly and uses a steerable parachute to land. Feeney plans to be on board for the first manned attempt. He said he thinks of the risk as similar to that of climbing Mount Everest. "Life is way too short to not explore those boundaries," he said. "How many times does a kid have a chance to go into space? I'm living my dream," he said. "I feel like I'm limited; my bicycle won't go as far as I want it to. My grandest dream goes all the way to the stars." The top competitors include Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif. Several competitors believe Scaled Composites could take the prize. Financed by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, it is led by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, perhaps best known for his design of Voyager, an aircraft that circled the globe in a non-stop 1986 flight without refueling.
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