Rocket plane in lofty company at museum

first_img SpaceShipOne was donated to the Smithsonian by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who invested more than $20 million in the project. Allen hopes it inspires others to explore the final frontier of travel. “It was a lifelong dream to find a way to participate in this next generation of space exploration,” Allen said. “Ultimately, SpaceShipOne’s presence in the Smithsonian shows once again that America’s milestone flights are not all behind it.” SpaceShipOne is the fourth aircraft designed by Rutan to be admitted to the Smithsonian’s collection. Also there is Voyager, which in 1986 circled the globe on one tank of fuel, plus the Quickie kit-built plane, the revolutionary VariEze kit plane, and an unassembled VariEze kit. The Associated Press contributed to this report.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “I’m extremely pleased that the museum, this early, has understood the significance of what we completed last year,” Rutan said. He envisions that within 10 years, people will be able to buy tickets and experience firsthand the thrill of weightlessness and stunning views. Rutan is designing passenger-carrying spacecraft for Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson. Zachary Wade, 8, of Great Falls, Va., could one day become one of those travelers. He and his father made the short trip into Washington on Wednesday just to get a glimpse of SpaceShipOne. “I think it’s interesting that such a small crew could get something like that up into space so quickly,” Zachary said, his head tilted up toward the rafters where the craft resides. About 20 people were involved in the effort, Rutan said. WASHINGTON – Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne rocket plane joined the Wright brothers’ first airplane and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. The first privately built craft to carry a man into space was officially welcomed to the “Milestones of Flight” gallery Wednesday as a crowd of several hundred people gathered to snap pictures. The manned vehicle takes its place in the glass-enclosed atrium between Lindbergh’s plane that in 1927 made the first nonstop solo trip across the Atlantic Ocean and the X-1 rocket plane in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947 at what is now Edwards Air Force Base. SpaceShipOne hurtled out of the Earth’s atmosphere to reach suborbital space in June 2004, climbing more than 62 miles above Mojave, where it was built. Last fall, it won the international Ansari X Prize – designed to encourage development of space tourism – after blasting into space twice in five days. last_img

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