Person Of The Year: The Space Entrepreneur
Working quietly in the background since the days of viewgraphs, a group of space entrepreneurs has long been pitching far-fetched ideas to skeptical moneymen with the fervor of evangelists. Now their viewgraphsâ€”updated to Powerpoint and CAD/CAMâ€”are becoming reality, and metal and fire are streaking through the upper atmosphere into low Earth orbit.
Collectively, they are in the vanguard of a new industry, poised to transform how humans venture into space in ways that most observers can scarcely imagine today. Space entrepreneurs had a big influence on aerospace in 2009, although it does not begin to compare with the impact they are likely to have in years to come.
That is why Aviation Week chose this intrepid group of engineers and visionaries as the 2009 Person of the Year.
Two developments have set the stage for space entrepreneurs to begin breaking down barriers, financially and otherwise. After investing more than $1 billion in hard-won private capital on hardware, they are finding increased acceptance for their business plans. And they have finally made it to space with humans onboardâ€”three suborbital flights with SpaceShipOne that won Scaled Composites the Ansari X-Prize and launched a fledgling commercial space-tourism business.
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