One Small Step Closer
March 22nd, 2010 was not just an important and tumultuous day in the world of US health care reform, although it was certainly that. For those of us interested in such things, it also marked another small but important step towards the human invasion of space. Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites successfully performed the first captive carry of VSS Enterprise by VMS Eve on behalf of Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic. Story in full and images can be found here.
The partnership between Rutan and Branson is a fascinating one. Rutan is one of those rare engineers, like the genius Fazlur Khan, whose work is as unconventionally beautiful as it is uncompromisingly effective. Branson is an adventurer and entrepreneur, unafraid of leaping into industries and situations of which he has little or no experience. Naming his company "Virgin" was as much a descriptive act on his part as a provocative one. But this is a new challenge for him, catalyzing the development of a market rather than entering a mature one. Admittedly it is only a tiny market at the moment of a few hundred affluent buyers and a handful of sellers, but the early histories of the car and the computer were not so very different.