One Year Ago, the Ansari X Prize Turned 10 It Was an Uncomfortable Birthday
By Douglas Messier Managing Editor
The planes kept coming and coming. One after another, they swooped out of a blue desert sky and touched down on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. By mid-morning there were at least a dozen private jets stretched along the flight line running east from the Voyager restaurant toward the control tower. And even more were on their way.
And to what did Mojave owe this ostentatious display of wealth by the 1 percenters? They had come to the sun-splashed spaceport last Oct. 4 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ansari X Prize. A decade earlier, Burt Rutan and his Paul Allen-funded team had won $10 million for sending the first privately-built manned vehicle into space twice within a two-week period.
The rumor mill in Mojave has it that we will be seeing the first powered test flight of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo by the end of this month. One specific date that has been rumored is April 22, which would have marked the 69th birthday of the late businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett.
“California authorities said they have spotted wreckage of a plane in an area where a hiker discovered identification cards belonging to Steve Fossett, the millionaire adventurer who vanished more than a year ago after embarking on a solo flight.
“The wreckage was spotted during an aerial search over the rugged east-central California mountains late Wednesday. Ground crews dispatched to the site were expected to determine on Thursday morning whether the plane indeed belonged to Mr. Fossett, the Associated Press reported. Authorities were being cautious because the terrain in the area is rough and thickly forested, and a number of other planes have disappeared there in the past.”
“A hiker in a rugged part of eastern California found a pilot’s license and other items possibly belonging to Steve Fossett, the adventurer who vanished on a solo flight in a borrowed plane more than a year ago, authorities said Wednesday.
“The hiker, Preston Morrow, said he found a Federal Aviation Administration identity card, a pilot’s license, a third ID and $1,005 in cash tangled in a bush off a trail just west of the town of Mammoth Lakes on Monday. He said he turned the items in to local police Wednesday, after unsuccessful attempts to contact Fossett’s family.
“Mammoth Lakes police Investigator Crystal Schafer confirmed that the department had the items, including the ones bearing Fossett’s name.”