Burt Rutan has been called "the man who reinvented the airplane." His aeronautical output is astounding: Over the past three decades, he's produced one new research airplane per year. More importantly, his theories and designs have changed the way airplanes look and function. Considered the most influential aircraft designer in the second half of the 20th century, he now aims to leave his mark on the 21st century, if not the new millennium.
Follow Burt Rutan on his quest to build a personal spacecraft – dubbed SpaceShipOne – and capture the elusive X Prize: a $10 million award that will go to the first privately funded, non-governmental group to build a spacecraft capable of carrying three 6'2", 198-pound adults to an altitude of 62 miles twice in 14 days. Since the contest began in 1996, more than 20 teams have entered, representing the United States, Canada, Russia, England and Argentina. But Rutan, the first to sign up, looks like the frontrunner. No other X Prize competitor can match his laurels or track record in aircraft design.
And with a one-man flight to 100 kilometers earlier this year, Rutan's lead position now looks to be challenged only by one other team: the da Vinci Project, a Canadian space effort based in Toronto. Watch as Rutan's engineers perfect their design in time for their historic launch and help lay the foundation for a completely new kind of space travel.
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