Space elevators, lunar landers and X-Racers, oh my! The first day of the 2006 Wirefly X Prize Cup blasted into New Mexico with rocket launches, stealth-jet flyovers, and two multimillion-dollar engineering contests to encourage innovation in the field of space exploration.
Competitive highlights included a successful flight of Armadillo Aerospace’s lunar-lander prototype and the triumphant ascent of the University of Michigan’s robotic space elevator on a 200-foot tether.
Practically every school-aged kid in New Mexico was in attendance (missing-child announcements over the intercom were frequent, but our editor in chief’s nine-year-old son Rex managed not to get lost), and representation from aerospace firms both large and small was top-notch.
There was some schedule confusion and an occasional, unfortunate overlap of events, but that was predictable, since the agenda was executed at the whims of weather, team readiness and New Mexico timekeeping.
Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, NM governor Bill Richardson, and Rocket Racing League CEO Granger Whitelaw all gave speeches, but the standout was Anousheh Ansari, the first private female space explorer, who gave a moving address imploring kids to learn as much as possible and then dream beyond the boundaries of their education.
You really have to give X Prize founder Peter Diamandis, his crew and the enthusiastic participants in this nascent industry credit: that this visionary event exists at all is a tribute to their tenacity and dedication to making something—a privately funded space-exploration business—out of absolutely nothing.
Check out the following video for a tour of the day’s events with Future Girl Megan Miller.