Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The X Prize Group Hopes Cash Incentive Puts Entrepreneurs in Orbit

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The X Prize Group Hopes Cash Incentive Puts Entrepreneurs in Orbit

Article excerpt

Imagine buying a ticket for a 90-minute business flight to the other side of the planet in a space shuttle. Or orbiting the Earth on a vacation joy ride.

Turning the average citizen into an astronaut by creating a commercial business in space travel is the goal of a $10 million competition called the X Prize. The worldwide challenge was announced Saturday at a news conference on the Arch grounds.

The money will go to the first private team to launch a spaceship able to carry three adults 100 kilometers - 62 miles - into space. To win, the ship will have to make two flights in two weeks, taking off and landing intact in a designated point-to-point route to outer space shaped like the Arch.

Saturday was chosen for the announcement because it marked the 69th anniversary week of Charles Lindbergh's nonstop flight from New York to Paris. Lindbergh won the $25,000 Orteig International Prize for his historic flight.

St. Louis was the site because Lindbergh's feat was backed by eight local businessmen. St. Louis business leaders also are providing the money for the nonprofit X Prize Foundation, which will have offices here.

Besides the $10 million challenge, the foundation plans to award four $25,000 prizes annually for the top space flight innovations coming from private entrepreneurs. The awards will be made each May in St. Louis, beginning next year.

The foundation also will sponsor the New Spirit of St. Louis Cup for spacecraft, a biennial competition similar to the America's Cup in sailing.

The X Prize project is the dream of Dr. Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the foundation. If his dream comes true, St. Louis will provide the inspiration for the commercial space flight industry.

"Lindbergh changed the way people think about air travel," Diamandis said. "Our goal is to change the way people think about space travel."

Diamandis is just 34 but presents an impressive resume that includes aerospace engineering degrees from MIT and a medical degree from Harvard. He founded the International Space University, a commercial shuttle launch company and a satellite communications company.

Diamandis said his generation grew up believing "2001: Space Odyssey" was more than a movie. …

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