August 05, 2003

X Prize Update

Via InstaPundit, here's the latest on the X Prize, a $10 million contest to build the world's first do-it-yourself spaceship. The winning craft will be the first to fly to a height of 62.5 miles twice within a two-week period. (I really like precision of that "point five." Why not fly to 60 miles? Why not 65? Something significant must happen right at 62.5.) There is hope that a winner will claim the prize in time for the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight in December of this year. In fact, the organizers of the X Prize contest are inspired by the big aviation prizes of the 20th century that led to major breakthroughs.

An example:

In 1919, hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered $25,000 to the first person to fly nonstop from New York to Paris - a prize won in 1927 by Charles Lindbergh aboard his Spirit of St. Louis.

What followed was the "Lindbergh boom": Aviation stocks skyrocketed as did public interest in commercial air travel.

Now, thanks to the X Prize, we have "astropreneurs" working feverishly to kick of a new space boom. And get a load of the descriptions of the elegant solutions they're working to implement:

They're pod-like. Cone-shaped. Bullet beauties.

They launch from water. From planes. From ships at sea.

They are named Wild Fire, Aurora, Cosmos Mariner. One is a flying saucer christened The Space Tourist.

This is a space race of a different kind. There's money to be won. By putting money on the line and saying exactly how high/how fast/how many times, the organizers of the X Prize have done a tremendous job of specifying an outcome. In response, the contestants have broadened their thought space as to what will and will not work in low-cost spacecraft design, and are even now pushing out the boundaries of the possible.

We need more contests like this.

UPDATE: Rand Simberg says it time to kill the myth that it takes a huge government bureaucracy to get us into space.

Posted by Phil at August 5, 2003 12:36 PM | TrackBack

BTW: 62.5 Miles = 100km, which is the prize altitude for the reason of being a nice round number.

Posted by: Monsyne Dragon at August 5, 2003 03:08 PM

The 62.5 is roundoff from the conversion of kilometers to miles. The X-Prize is to a hundred kilometers...

Posted by: Rand Simberg at August 5, 2003 03:08 PM

Of course, 62.5 miles = 100 KM. You know I really should have either

1. known that, or

2. figured it out.

On the other hand, look at all the trouble Taranto's been having with the metric system over on Best of the Web. (Is that an excuse?)

Posted by: Phil at August 5, 2003 03:50 PM
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