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SpaceShipOne

The Wright brothers made history on December 17, 1903. They became the first humans to fly in a powered plane. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong made history again by being the first human to set foot on the Moon. After that, On June 21, 2014, civilian astronaut Mike Melvill made history as well. He became the first private citizen to pilot a spacecraft into Earth’s orbit. That craft was SpaceShipOne. Can you imagine what it would be like to fly into space?

An image of SpaceShipOne in a museum.

SpaceShipOne – the first spacecraft flown by a civilian astronaut.

With this new achievement, a new space age had begun. Space travel no longer has to be restricted to world governments. Companies around the world have put lots of work and ingenuity into getting to space. SpaceX is a notable one. Because of this, civilian space travel may soon become a reality. Soon, it could be available to all of us.
 
They built the ship using a simple, robust, and reliable design. It could support cheap space travel and make space tourism real. That means that you might even get to go to space in your lifetime!
 

What is SpaceShipOne?

SpaceShipOne was the first craft to be flown by a civilian astronaut. However, many others are being worked on. Some of these include the Falcon 9 and the Pegasus Rocket.
 

How High Did it Fly?

The White Knight mothership launched SpaceShipOne. The plane and its pilot flew just outside the atmosphere of the Earth. They then flew back to Earth safely. This journey only took 24 minutes, with 3 minutes of zero gravity. There were three of these flights in which SpaceShipOne set records, and those include:
 
  • On June 21, 2004, it flew 100 kilometers (62 miles) high, with Mike Melvill as the pilot.
 
  • September 29, 2004, it flew 102 kilometers (64 miles) high, with Mike Melvill as the pilot.
 
  • On October 4, 2004, it flew 112 kilometers (72 miles) high, with Brian Binnie as the pilot.
 

Winning the X Prize

SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize and they got $10 million for the above flights. The team also won the Collier Trophy in 2004. This award is given for great success in flight and space flight. Also, they won the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for their success.
 
To learn more about SpaceShipOne, watch this video:

Other Great Resources

Kiddle Encyclopedia on SpaceShipOne: https://kids.kiddle.co/SpaceShipOne

The First Private Spacecraft: https://www.space.com/16769-spaceshipone-first-private-spacecraft.html

The Smithsonian on SpaceShipOne: https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/spaceshipone

Written by: Lindley Lund