The race to space

Everyone has his or her obsession, one of mine is collecting Mexican amate painting, for some people it is investing in space travel.

The tangible pieces of John Carmack’s dream are scattered around an 8,000-square-foot warehouse: industrial water-purification tank, aluminum cones, compressed air cylinders, used Russian spacesuit.

All are components of the software developer’s project to launch a manned rocket 62 miles up by January 2005.

What binds the pieces together are Carmack’s quiet intellect and considerable bankroll.

“We mostly look at it as a two-horse race,” the 33-year-old millionaire said of the international competition for the $10 million X Prize, offered by a St. Louis-based foundation.

The entrepreneur has a background in computer games and works with a team out of a warehouse, sometimes using the parking lot for small-scale launch attempts. Rather than pursuing secrecy, progress is publicized on the project website, there you can even see videos of failed launch attempts.

NASA had the following response:

NASA has no official comment on the civilian attempts.

“It’s certainly a complicated business. Sometimes [sic] we make it look easy,” said Melissa Mathews, a space agency spokeswoman.

Is Carmack crazy? Beats me, read this interview if you want more data. The whole point is that there is only one way to find out, which is to let him try. Maybe he is right that “Aerospace is plumbing with the volume turned up.”

Thanks to Marko Siladin for the pointer.


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