Not as Smooth as it Looked has an interesting story up on the SpaceShipOne flight of yesterday.

‘Anomalies’ in first private spaceflight revealed

12:27 22 June 04 news service

The flight of the first private astronaut was not as perfect as it first appeared – a number of glitches occurred during the flight, some potentially catastrophic.

The revelations were made by Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne, which on Monday became the world’s first privately funded craft to enter space. Until the team fully understands exactly what went wrong during the flight, he said, they will not go ahead with the pair of flights needed to claim the $10 million Ansari X-Prize.

Luckily, the glitches did not prevent a successful flight. But pilot Mike Melvill said that a partial failure of the system controlling the spacecraft’s orientation could have been disastrous if it had occurred just slightly earlier in the flight,.

The problem struck at the end of the rocket engine’s firing time of about 70 seconds, just as Melvill reached space. “As I came out of the atmosphere I no longer had any attitude control,” Melvill told New Scientist and other reporters. “If that had happened earlier, I would never have made it and you all would be looking sad right now.”

Read the whole thing.

See why I recommended that you re-read Bill Whittle’s essay Courage?

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