The developer of the world’s first privately-built aircraft to reach space — and winner of the $10-million Ansari X prize — credits the advances he experienced as a child for his work today.

“The jet age had started and the missile age started and there was an enormous jump in the perfection of aircraft,” said Burt Rutan, in Ottawa for the first time last night to speak at the Ottawa Flying Club’s Wings dinner.

“Those who become innovators are those who have experienced advances when they were children.”
If that’s the case, Rutan must have experienced a lot of advances — the 64-year-old Portland, Oregon, native developed SpaceShipOne and Voyager, the first aircraft to circle the globe non-stop without refueling, and is now working with Virgin Group founder Richard Branson to form a new aerospace business.


“In the early ’60s, with the advances, I’d assumed that I’d spend vacation in orbit by now,” he said. That will happen, he said, but it’ll be private enterprise, not government, that will take people there.

“I would like to achieve a goal that NASA has neglected,” said Rutan. “I want to make flight outside the atmosphere accessible to the common man by making sub-orbital flights available to space tourists.”

The flight would be 90 minutes long. The passenger would experience weightlessness for four minutes, said Rutan, who estimates 100,000 people will go into space in the first 10 years.

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