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APRIL 2005
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Spaceship One Photo Gallery Thumbnail 1 Spaceship One Photo Gallery Thumbnail 2
Spaceship One Photo Gallery Thumbnail 3 Spaceship One Photo Gallery Thumbnail 4
Spaceship One Photo Gallery Thumbnail 5
Photo captions by Michael Klesius
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Spaceship One Gallery Photo

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The People's Rocket
Photograph by Jim Sugar

Beneath the belly and widespread wings of launch aircraft White Knight, a smaller experimental civilian spacecraft called SpaceShipOne stands ready to make history. Conceived by legendary designer Burt Rutan and built by Scaled Composites, both aircraft were aimed at winning the ten-million-dollar Ansari X Prize. The money had been promised by a St. Louis-based nonprofit foundation of space enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to the first civilian enterprise to send a craft and the equivalent weight of three passengers at least a hundred kilometers (328,000 feet), commonly accepted as the threshold to space—and then do it again with the same craft within the next 14 days. SpaceShipOne met the first challenge on September 29, 2004, climbing to more than 337,500 feet (102,900 meters). When this photo was taken five days later—just after 5 a.m. on October 4 in California's Mojave Desert—the rocket was just hours away from its final victory. It would separate from the launch aircraft at 47,100 feet (14,400 meters), light its motor, and shatter its previous record by climbing to 367,500 feet (112,000 meters), earning the grand prize.

Photo Fast Facts
Camera: Nikon F100
Film Type: Kodak Ektachrome 100
Lens: Nikkor 18-35mm
Speed and F-Stop: 1/4 second @ f/8

Weather Conditions: Clear and cold
Time of Day: 4:30 a.m.
Lighting Techniques: Internal mercury vapor light
Special Equipment or Comments: Tripod

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