It’s been almost 47 years since Sputnik began the space race and 35 years since a few men hobbled about on the moon, but I don’t yet have a flying car and I can’t take an orbiting vacation. Folks, the space race wasn’t won, it was abandoned. And that’s why we have the Ansari X Prize.
Burt Rutan’s team seemed to be in the lead earlier this year with the successful launch of SpaceShipOne, the competition has been in the news lately. The da Vinci Project is hoping to launch on October 2 (exactly 47 years after the launch of Sputnik). The da Vinci team, which recently got a cash injection from an online casino, is using a helium balloon to get to 25km (80,000 feet), then launching their rocket for the last 75km from there.
Others haven’t been so lucky. Space Transport Corp lost their prototype in an explosion; Armadillo Aerospace lost theirs to throttle problems during a recent test; and after some early successes, development of Rotary Rocket’s Roton seems to be dead.
Thanks to Ars for some links and a heads-up.