Not rocket science – competition works

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The Sunday Globe ran a great story on the dawn of a new industry – the space rocket business. No, it is not some George Jetson (“with Jane, his wife”) cartoon. Burt Rutan, Jeff Greason, and Dave Masten are all hanging out in the Mojave desert designing, engineering and building rockets. As the Globe noted,

Fifty years after the Soviets launched the satellite Sputnik into space, Mojave has found itself at the center of a private space race that boosters say is as important – and risky – as the nationalistic race between the Soviets and the United States.This time, a group of ambitious entrepreneurs is leading the competition to launch regular Janes and Joes into space.

So why the Mojave? How did the Mojave Air and Space Port get to be “the Silicon Valley” of the rocket industry?

“The same things bring people to Mojave that brought Orville and Wilbur to Kitty Hawk,” Witt said. “Freedom from encroachment, industrial espionage, the press, and a steady breeze.”

A key piece of this puzzle was Peter Diamandis, who created the X Prize. The X Prize put up $10 million for anybody who could create the first privately funded manned spacecraft. Rutan won the competition, and as the Globe put it:

It was a milestone in spaceflight. Virgin Galactic has already started booking flights aboard a Rutan-built craft for $200,000 a trip. The company hopes to begin launching in 2009.

Dr. Diamandis is the lecturer at the futuristic, black-tie Lovett C. Peters Lecture this year. Become a Pioneer contributor and you can be there, too. Greek futurists – my god, what is the country coming to!