The world’s first manned private spaceflight SpaceShipOne, becomes the first privately financed craft to leave Earth’s atmosphere and reach the edge of space.
With the control test of Mike Melvil a self-taught civilian, SpaceShipOne was released by its carrier craft and fired its hybrid rocket motors at an altitude of 47,000 feet over California’s Mojave Desert. As Melvill steered the ship outside the atmosphere, he spent about three minutes in weightlessness.
SpaceShipOne later got to an altitude of 62 miles, putting it into suborbital space, though there was some damage to the ship during the flight – Melvill reported hearing a loud bang at one point – it landed without incident on the same runway from which it had taken off 90 minutes earlier.
The real significance of SpaceShipOne’s flight was to demonstrate that a privately financed, privately designed craft capable of space flight was now viable, meaning that the heavens are open to commercial exploitation. That is to tell you that money speaks even when the air runs out.