June 21, 2004


A rocket plane soared above Earth's atmosphere Monday in the first privately financed manned spaceflight, then glided back to Earth for an unpowered landing.

SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill was aiming to fly 62 miles above the Earth's surface. The exact altitude reached was not immediately confirmed by radar.

The ship touched down at Mojave Airport to applause and cheers at 8:15 a.m. PDT, about 90 minutes after it was carried aloft slung under the belly of the jet-powered White Knight. . . .

Burt Rutan, and the project was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who would only describe the cost as being in excess of $20 million.

"Clearly, there is an enormous, pent-up hunger to fly in space and not just dream about it," Rutan said Sunday. "Now I know what it was like to be involved in America's amazing race to the moon in the '60s." . . .

NASA also is interested, said Michael Lembeck, requirements division director of the space agency's Office of Exploration Systems.

"We need people like Burt Rutan with innovative ideas that will take us to the moon and Mars," he said from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration headquarters. "Folks like Burt bring a different way of doing business."

Rand Simberg was at the launch and has numerous posts about it.

Woohoo! Phil Bowermaster has numerous posts, too. And apparently they did pass the 100km/62mi mark that's often used as the demarcation point between the atmosphere and outer space.

And reporter Leonard David has filed his report from the scene.

MORE: Dale Amon has another firsthand report.