He created Voyager, which flew nonstop and unrefueled around the globe in 1987; and SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 became the first privately built vehicle to take a person to space. Long before these and many other achievements, Rutan (shown in the back seat, behind brother Dick) was a flight test project engineer for the Air Force. At age 25, in 1968, he worked at Edwards Air Force Base on fighter spin tests and the LTV XC-142 VSTOL (vertical/short-takeoff-and-landing) transport. He went on to establish the Rutan Aircraft Factory and Scaled Composites, and eventually sold 12,000 sets of plans for his popular homebuilt VariEze and Long-EZ pusher-prop canard airplanes. Soon, Virgin Galactic will send clients on suborbital flights in Rutan’s VSS Enterprise rocketplane.
Photos from: "What Were They Doing at 25?" »