The Commercial Astronaut Era Begins
Today our eyes are focused on Dragons, anticipating how soon commercial human space flight will be a regular occurrence in our lives. And it was eight years ago yesterday, June 21, that the first privately funded human spaceflight happened when SpaceShipOne went on Flight 15P, a powered test flight that up just over 62 miles. This wasn't the official flight that would win Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites the $10 million Ansari X Prize later that year, but nevertheless, pilot Mike Melvill returned an astronaut, landing in, indeed, commercial spaceship number one. The image above was taken the next year, 2005, when Scaled Composites delivered SpaceShipOne to the National Air and Space Museum. It now hangs in the Milestones of Flight gallery in the National Mall location.
Photo: NASM (Eric Long)