Eyes on the Prize

An American wasn’t the first in space — but an American company might just be the first to put a(n American) man in space without a government program:

A privately developed manned rocket will attempt to reach space this month, its builders said Wednesday. It would be the first non-governmental flight to leave Earth’s atmosphere.

SpaceShipOne, created by aviation designer Burt Rutan and funded by billionaire Paul Allen, will attempt to reach an altitude of 62 miles on a suborbital flight over the Mojave Desert on June 21.

The rocket plane reached an altitude of about 40 miles during a test flight May 13.

Suborbital flights are essentially up and down. The craft does not reach speeds fast enough go into orbit around the Earth.

If the attempt is successful, SpaceShipOne will compete for the Ansari X Prize, a competition in which $10 million goes to the first reusable rocket able to carry three people into space on a suborbital flight, return them safely to Earth, and repeat the feat within two weeks with the same vehicle.

What I want to know is, who will be piloting SpaceShipOne, and will I ever get a chance to shake his hand?