As reported on The Verge.
By Dante D’Orazio
Ten years ago today, SpaceShipOne and pilot Mike Melvill blasted just past the Earth’s atmosphere into space, marking beginning of commercial spaceflight. The Paul Allen-funded project successfully became the first privately-financed human spaceflight, and after its success it seemed that commercial space travel was just around the corner. However, after just a couple more flights later in 2004, the SpaceShipOne was retired. There hasn’t been another commercial, suborbital human spaceflight since.
That failure certainly isn’t for lack of trying, however. Richard Branson’s quest to open space travel to all has seen hundreds of millions of dollars sunk into the SpaceShipTwo project, a space vessel that builds off of its predecessor. If all had gone to plan, rich, pioneering tourists would have already flown to space aboard the ship, but the project has faced myriad delays. Nevertheless, despite the quiet decade since SpaceShipOne’s flights, we should soon see another flurry of activity in commercial space travel: Virgin Galactic hopes to begin flights this year, and competitors like XCOR and Blue Origin are continuing testing. While the delays are certainly disappointing for some, the difficulties over the past ten years are testament to just how impressive SpaceShipOne’s achievements are.