Headlines > News > AP: Flight of private spaceship draws gasps, sighs at St. Louis control center

AP: Flight of private spaceship draws gasps, sighs at St. Louis control center

Published by Cathleen Manville on Thu Sep 30, 2004 1:20 am
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Associated Press

ST. LOUIS – More than 1,500 miles from the site of the world’s second privately manned space flight, people in the hometown of the Ansari X Prize gasped then cheered during the flight of SpaceShipOne.

The launch, flight and safe landing in the Mojave Desert was watched by at least 70 people at the St. Louis Science Center. Many were on the edge of their chairs as the action played out on a video screen.

“That was pretty cool. I liked it,” said Brendan Weber, 10, as he munched on M&Ms with his dad.

SpaceShipOne was gunning for the $10 million prize that requires private ships to make two trips within 14 days to an altitude of at least 62 miles. SpaceShipOne is scheduled to make its second trip on Monday.

Many people at the center held their hand over their mouth as the aircraft began rolling upward shortly after disengaging from a larger mother ship.

“Come on – good control, good control,” said Terri Gipson, her hands clasped as she watched the plane finally stabilize and continue its ascent.

Gipson, the center’s associated director of space sciences, joined the sighs of relief as SpaceShipOne climbed to 337,500 feet.

Enthusiastic applause broke out as the spaceship then put down its landing gear and coasted to a stop on the desert runway. Science center staff passed around plastic glasses of nonalcoholic champagne and M&Ms.

“You know, I didn’t realize it until we got here – it’s kind of history,” said spectator Ron Weber. “I suppose a lot of people think that way. With busy lives you don’t always look around you, and then (when you do) it’s like, ‘Whoa!’”

For Lydia Weatherbie, a home-schooled 9th grader, the broadcast gave her a chance to see one of her favorite subjects – science_ at work.

“It’ll be really neat to see if people do develop this to the point where you can hop in a spaceship and go see space,” she said.

The X Prize Foundation modeled the award after the $25,000 prize won by Charles Lindbergh after he flew the Spirit of St. Louis on the world’s first solo New York-to-Paris flight in 1927.

Inspired by the rapid development of air travel after Lindbergh’s accomplishment, the foundation is offering the $10 million prize to inspire an era of space tourism that makes spaceflight accessible beyond the missions of government agencies like NASA.

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