“On October 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne rocketed into history, becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period, thus claiming the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize.
In addition to meeting the altitude requirement to win the X-Prize, pilot Brian Binnie also broke the August 22, 1963 record by Joseph A. Walker, who flew the X-15 to an unofficial world altitude record of 354,200 feet. Brian Binnie’s SpaceShipOne flight carried him all the way to 367,442 feet or 69.6 miles above the Earth’s surface.”
In related news, “Sir Richard Branson hopes his new company will be the first to send adventurous tourists into space.
The high-flying entrepreneur announced Monday that the Virgin Group, his amassing of airline, entertainment and telecommunications companies, has entered into a technology licensing agreement with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Mojave Aerospace Ventures. Under the deal, Branson’s Virgin Galactic plans to become the first business venture to carry commercial passengers on space flights.
“We’ve always had a dream of developing a space tourism business, and Paul Allen’s vision, combined with (aircraft designer) Burt Rutan’s technological brilliance, have brought that dream a step closer to reality,” Branson said in a statement.
Virgin Galactic will privately fund the building of spaceships and related equipment, as well as operate the tourism company. The company is expected to open early next year, with the first flights operating in 2007.
Space tourists, who are expected to receive at least three days of preflight training, will pay approximately $190,000 each to travel toward the stars in a two-hour trip aboard the “VSS Enterprise.” The company said it plans to begin taking deposits early next year and is now accepting registrations for prospective astronauts.”