1938 was 35 years after the first aircraft flight of Orville and
Wilbur Wright on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk North Carolina. Manned
space travel began on April 12, 1961 when a Soviet air force pilot,
Major Yuri A. Gagarin, made an orbit of the Earth. So manned space
travel is over 40 years old. Space travel into Earth’s orbit is orders
of magnitude more dangerous after 40 years than aircraft travel was
when it was only 35 years old….
Newer rockets have been designed in recent years and have unexpectedly
blown up on launch. Rutan’s accomplishment is not as radical as some
media reports present it for a number of reasons. First of all, whether
he has designed a safer spaceship is will not be proven unless and
until it has flown hundreds and even thousands of times without mishap.
Also, and very importantly, SpaceShipOne does not do that much. It can not achieve orbital velocity or decelerate from orbital velocity.
In my view the Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne flight was important
because it demonstrated the potential for prizes to spur innovation. It
also opens up the possibility that that dangerous orbital spacecraft
can be designed and built for much lower costs than NASA and big
aerospace companies typically spend.
Addendum: Randall’s programming work is already in outer-space!