21 June 2004
News - Vehicles (Good)
Rocket Summer 2004
SpaceShipOne Takes Flight
by Alan Breakstone
by Alan Breakstone

Over a half-century ago, Ray Bradbury began the Martian Chronicles with a poetic opening chapter titled "Rocket Summer." In it, hot rocket exhaust melts the snows of a chilling Winter, bringing warmth to the countryside as private citizens lift off for the heavens. 

Today, on this first day of Summer 2004, that dream has been realized.

As one of many TV viewers following the odyssey of SpaceShipOne, my heart fluttered as the White Knight took off from Mojave Airport, carrying Mike Melvill and his rocketplane to their appointment with destiny. Their triumphant return marks a critical moment when the gift of space travel is wrestled away from the military-industrial complex and given, ultimately, to all people.

People from all walks of life are already debating the significance of this first day of Rocket Summer. Many no doubt share the opinions of my mother's fellow school teachers today, who wonder why people would want to go into space in the first place. What would they do up there? What good is spaceflight anyway? Others, like myself, not only want to go, but are now thrilled at the possibility that our flight is a giant step closer to reality. After decades of backpeddling bureaucracies and painful disasters, the fact that this moment has come feels like a an incredible dream.

Burt Rutan, proud as a new father, told CNN.com today, "We are heading to orbit sooner than you think. We do not intend to stay in low-earth orbit for decades. The next 25 years will be a wild ride. ... One that history will note was done for the benefit of everyone."

The transformation of humankind into a spacefaring species is underway.
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Alan Breakstone 21 June 2004
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