We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


I am now back in Redondo Bearch and waiting until it is time to pick up the CD’s from the developer. In the meantime, I thought I’d pass on a few other items about today’s flight.

  • Patti Grace Smith of the FAA was on hand to give Pilot Melville an award which recognizes him as the first civilian astronaut.
  • There may have been some re-entry damage affecting roll controls. I have heard incomplete and contradictory information. SpaceShipOne did come into the landing a bit hotter than expected. I have heard numbers like +5 mph.
  • The candies banging about inside of the cockpit were definitely M&M’s. The brand name has been withheld (other than a slip of the tongue by Melville that was edited out later) since there has so far not been any brand placement payments made. I will leave it to your imagination the bad jokes floating around the XCOR hanger…
  • SpaceShipOne was about 26 miles outside of the box it was supposed to be in during the re-entry. Because of this the sonic booms on re-entry were barely audible from the airport. There is scuttlebutt about some control problems. This is to be expected in a test vehicle which is being used for a fast-track learning process in a particular flight regime which has never been explored before.
  • The engine burn was a bit shorter than was expected. It was 1:15 min rather than 1:30 which was expected.
  • I have heard the Governor was not there. The high DOT official was not the Secretary of the Department, it was Patti Grace Smith, the woman in charge of FAA launch and spaceport licensing and regulation.

16 comments to Scuttlebutt

  • So Burt Rutan did it. I think this is one of those events like Lindburghs flight that will eventually be historically significant, even if nobody remembers the exact day it happened.
    /rant mode/
    Coming home this evening, however, I heard the event reported on NPR, followed by commentary by Dr. Sombody-or-Other, a former NASA historian. Never a pencil when you need it. This guy spent 5 minutes or so dismissing the feat as a “stunt” which might win the participants “10 million, for a 20 million investment, not a good return, and a terrible business model” also pointing out that the Spaceship was incapable of reaching LEO, not to mention Geosync, with any payload at all, making it completely worthless, commercially. Etc. Etc. Etc.
    I could very easily visualize this jerk standing on the beach at Kitty Hawk, that day in 1903, making essentially the same speech. You want to know what’s wrong with NASA? HE’s whats wrong with NASA. Where do they find people like this so completely devoid of vision or imagination? Besides, the flight today was roughly analogous to Gus Grissom’s short rocket ride on the first Mercury launch, and how much did the government spend to produce that? Including the preliminary flights with a monkey on board? Frankly I found the whole article to be nothing more than a thinly disguised editorial advocating the statism that NPR thrives on.
    /rant mode off/

    Anyway high fives to Burt and his merry crew. Yee Haw! and all that.


  • Eric Blair

    I am so glad I turned of NPR to listen to my new Avril Lavigne CD on the way home from work. I would have busted the radio. What a total flippin’ idiot. The guy is just jealous.

  • Julian Morrison

    I wonder if M&Ms will give them a permanent contract as “official in flight floating candy”?

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    Without even hearing the story, I can tell you that’s Dr Alex Roland of Duke’s History Department. Used to know him when I was in grad school.

    Basically, nothing done by humans, for humans, or in space without NSF peer review, is worth doing, and he’s not all that hot on the science stuff either.

    The only thing I can’t figure out is why he got the job as NASA Historian in the first place.

  • (Bill: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter were the first 4 Mercury astronauts).

    Great post, Dale; thanks for the notes and following it.

    Yes, much more like Kitty Hawk.

    I support 100% tax credits for donations to space exploration organizations. Privatize NASA — make ALL its research files open source available.

  • Ben

    A historian who does not understand the historical significance of today’s flight, or what the X-prize means. What kind of historian is this?

    My god man, Paul Allen has his own private space ship! (Not really sure how the division is set up. My understanding is that Paul Allen put up the money, Burt designed and built the thing, and Mike flew it. If I am right, Paul Allen has the worlds only private spaceship. Man I hate that guy 🙂 )

    If that is not history to that moron, well, to heck with him. He’ll be laughed at for centuries if anyone remembers who he is.

    BTW what do civilian astronaut wings look like?

    I know Mike Mevill came across as a sweet guy on the news, but I gotta hate him now. He’s 20 years older than me an is an astronaut.

    Hmm… how much are pilot’s lessons again?

  • It’s certainly a great achievement, and the herald of even better things to come.

    But I don’t think that Lindbergh’s solo Atlantic crossing or the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk are the right historical analogies. The former is not quite right because while a solo crossing was a great adventure it was not terribly relevant to the development of regular commercial services, which required a very different type of aircraft. Kitty Hawk is not right either because that was the first time that anyone had ever made a controlled powered flight, while SpaceShipOne is not the first vehicle to make a sub-orbital space flight.

    I suggest that the best analogy is with the completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory, Utah on May 10 1869. It was a great engineering feat, but the men who built it were not the first to build a railway and they were not going where no man had gone before. Rather, they were opening the way for everyman to go there whenever he chose, bringing the distant frontier within reach of the average citizen. That’s what the X Prize contenders are really doing.

  • Steven DallaVicenza

    I found this ‘Rutan mingled, talked and directed traffic with those who spent the night on the windy Mojave Desert floor across from the airstrip Sunday night. He saved one sign as a memento of the occasion: “SpaceShipOne; GovernmentZero”.’ on cnn.com http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/06/21/suborbital.test/index.html should be worth at least a samizdata quote of the day

  • In an amazing stroke of luck, I was on the last day of a business trip to LA when I learnt that this flight was taking place, so I immediately drove to Mojave to see it. The atmosphere was fantastic, the crowd loved the show, and it was great to be there.

    I have a report and some modest vid-caps on my web site. Thanks, Dale, for the inside info on Spaceship One’s progress!

  • if you could, u must take some photos!

  • I heard the review with Dr. Roland on NPR as well. Couldn’t believe my ears. It’s the only time that I sent a letter off to NPR. Idiots.

  • Its good to see some of the millions made by MS being used to do something useful. It was truly a great day and one in the eye to statists everywhere!

  • zmollusc

    $20,000,000 for developing a re-usable suborbital craft? What a bunch of losers! For that kind of money they could have bought a house in Knightsbridge.

  • Ben

    Umm.. The “millions made by MS” was doing something useful already. If your product does not do somethign I want, I won’t buy it. And as the great yogi Berra once said, “If they don’t come, we can’t stop them.” That is the basis of capitalism.

    I am smart enough to tell whether the products I buy do what I want them to do. Whether it is worth the price I paid for it, whether it is more valuable than the money I spent. You may disagree with my choice, but its my money, so shut the hell up 🙂

    MS changed the computer industry as well as human culture. One of the founders, who had already changed the world by creating MS, just did it again. Changed the world.

    It may be the way you like, but then again, tough. His money, his goal. Perhaps he would rather have a space ship than a house in Knightbridge. I know I would.

  • Ben I was actually refering to the fact that the MS millions were being used for something useful and innovative.

    MS is a lot of thing, but innovative ain’t one of them. They spend more of their time pinching ideas (Windows from Apple/Zerox & their web-browser from Netscape to name two) from other companies and mass producing copies for the masses. MS has spent a lot of its time and money doing their best to drive their competition out of business. There have been many court-cases dealing with this sort of behaviour as you no doubt know.

  • Ben

    Yes I do know. Yet folks still line up to buy MS products, despite all the warnings and apprehensions of their “betters”.

    For whatever reason, whether you agree or I with them or not, MS makes products that people buy, people spend their own hard earned money on. They do so because MS makes a product that does what the customer wants. Which thereby lets the customer do what HE wants. Which is really what it is all about.

    You can complain that MS did not invent this or that till you are blue in the face but it means nothing. It is my understanding that BOTH MS and Apple stole GUI from Xerox PARC, or rather, Xerox, not knowing what they had, or could see no commercial possibilities to it, or some other stupid reason, GAVE IT AWAY.

    However it happened, the fact remains that MS makes products that people like, and are willing to pay for. This is why Bill Gates, and Paul Allen are rich enough to afford to invent their own personal space craft. Not just buy them, but invent them. Nobody is forced to buy MS products and therein lies the problem with your complaint about a lack of innovation.

    All you show is innovation is not necessary for market viability. The market does not care how new, innovative or creative a particular company is. It cares about whether the product is worth the money spent on it. Whether it does what it wants done, and allows them to do what they want to do. The rest is irrelevant.