June 22, 2004

A BEEMAN'S MOMENT (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Up, up and away - 62 miles high: In a first, test pilot guides craft out of the atmosphere (John Schwartz, June 22, 2004, NY Times)

A veteran civilian test pilot on Monday became the first human to reach space in a privately financed mission, soaring more than 62 miles above the California desert in a tiny spacecraft that nonetheless encountered some serious in-flight malfunctions before gliding home to a safe and festive landing on a runway here.

Michael Melvill, the diminutive test pilot at the controls of SpaceShipOne, emerged from the cockpit upon his return, climbed atop the plane, spread his arms and let out a primal ‘‘Yeeeeeeee-haaah!’’

That elation was in sharp counterpoint to some moments during the flight.

As it rocketed toward the threshold of space 62 miles up, mission officials later said, the craft unexpectedly rolled 90 degrees, and then a wing flap moved out of alignment, taking the craft off course and forcing Melvill to take swift corrective actions. Those problems limited the ship to a high point of 328,491 feet, project officials said, but still a few hundred feet greater than 100 kilometers (62.2 miles) aove Earth, the altitude that the Federation Aeronautique International recognizes as the boundary of space.

The craft’s pioneering designer, Burt Rutan, who had hoped that SpaceShipOne would reach 360,000 feet, said that the malfunctions were ‘‘the most serious safety problems we have had’’ with the ship, which had flown less eventfully on lower-altitude test flights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 22, 2004 8:06 AM

Is anybody proposing that this contraption could, if it reached escape velocity, return without burning up?

How stupid is it?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 22, 2004 4:06 PM

Journalist, write about journalism, that's what you know something about... Oh yeah the job of a journalist is to explain to the reader things that the journalist has no knowledge of.

Dork -- the thing did what it was designed to do.

You can't get to the moon in a mercury capsule either.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at June 22, 2004 8:45 PM

Yeah, but why do that?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 24, 2004 12:23 PM