SpaceShipOne - The First Strato-Yacht?

Pilot Brian Binnie successfully took the privately owned spacecraft SpaceShipOne high enough to win the X Prize. Binnie has 21 years of flight test experience, and has logged more than 4,600 hours of flight time in 59 different aircraft.


(From SpaceShipOne Cockpit)

Although science fiction is replete with examples of space ships and galactic empires, it was more difficult to think of an example of an sf space ship from that early, developmental phase of space travel. However, as soon as I saw an interior shot of the ship, I remembered that in Robert Heinlein's 1958 novel Methuselah's Children, he refers to a small, privately owned suborbital craft called a Joy-boat Junior:

"Why, the ship wasn't a proper deep-space craft at all. It did not have an airlock but merely a seal to let it fasten to a larger ship; Lazarus was staring right into the body of the craft. It looked like - yes, it was a "Joy-boat Junior," a little private strato-yacht, suitable only for point-to-point trajectory, or at the most for rendezvous with a satellite provided the satellite could refuel it for the return leg."
In the novel, wealthy individuals owned small spacecraft like this in the same way that the wealthy own Lear jets today.

See the account of the X Prize-winning flight of SpaceShipOne The X Prize is Won for details on the winning flight.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/6/2004)

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