Ed Driscoll

SPACESHIP ONE: When it comes

SPACESHIP ONE: When it comes to space, I’m strictly a layman. But this article appears to me to be a somewhat decent first look at SpaceShip One’s flight yesterday.

But its level of cynicism doesn’t help matters. It’s written as if only the federal government’s contributions to space research count. The headline makes it sound like the flight was a giant Estes model rocket launch. Was the Wright Brothers’ flight a giant leap for paper airplane builders? And these equally cynical paragraphs don’t help matters:

In many ways, the moment is more Wild West than Wilbur Wright, opening a new frontier for the geniuses and thrill seekers, businessmen and hucksters who have long followed pioneers to new lands and new markets.

“It’s like the opening of the West,” says Howard McCurdy, a spaceflight historian at American University in Washington. “Entrepreneurs followed in the wake of the oft government-funded explorers. There were a lot of characters and a lot of innovation.”

I wasn’t around when Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth for the first time, and when Alan Sheppard and Gus Grissom followed with their first suborbital flights, but yesterday’s flight is equally important: the first time a man who wasn’t on a government payroll went into space. (Unfortunately, pilot Mchael Melvill isn’t on Henry Luce’s payroll, so he won’t get the endless and positive PR that the Mercury Seven astronauts received.)

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey will eventually arrive, but like most Kubrick productions, it’s going to take much longer than first anticipated.