X Prize Upate: SpaceShipOne Takes the Gold

US $10 million Ansari X Prize goes to Mojave team

4 min read

4 October 2004--This morning, for the second time in five days, a privately built spaceship punched a hole in the sky over Southern California. Supporters hope the flight has also broken through metaphorical barriers to wider human access to space. The flight of SpaceShipOne completed the required twice-in-two-weeks space shot to earn the US $10 million Ansari X Prize. It also won 51-year-old test pilot Brian Binnie the second pair of astronaut wings ever earned without government assistance.

In its ascent this morning, the space plane incised a vertical white smoke trail across the blue desert sky, as straight as if a ruler had been laid across the celestial sphere. It soon faded, but the permanent message of this short-lived skywriting was unambiguous--commercial human spaceflight is now a reality.

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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