Flying High—Private Space Flight
Read a National Geographic magazine article about SpaceShipOne and get information, facts, and more about the X Prize.
At the dawn of a new era, SpaceShipOne is minutes away from being released by its launch aircraft. White Knight, on September 29, 2004. With pilot Mike Melvill at the controls, the pioneering civilian rocket would climb to more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) in the first of two flights to win a ten-million-dollar prize.
Just before sunrise on October 4, as the launch vehicle White Knight—with SpaceShipOne tucked neatly under its belly—was poised to taxi onto the runway at Mojave Airport in California, I stuck my head inside the tiny graphite-and-epoxy rocket to give pilot Brian Binnie a few last words of advice. I knew that Brian, an avid golfer like me, would get my meaning. "Use a driver," I said.