Displaying the inspired technique that will soon make routine personal spaceflight possible, watch SpaceShipTwo feather its tail in a test flight carried out earlier this month. By reconfiguring itself to produce a rocking motion at apogee, the craft will avoid the high speeds and extreme heat generated by ships like the Space Shuttle, which hit the atmosphere at oblique angles and sled back to Earth.
SpaceShipTwo will enter service as the world's first spaceliner.
The ship is modeled on the Burt Rutan design that won the Ansari X PRIZE in 2004 for the first privately developed spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth's surface, twice within two weeks.
Incidentally, Burt Rutan spoke at the 2006 IdeaFestival. While watching a pulse-pounding video of the historic SpaceShipOne flights was fun, the moment was made much more memorable when Rutan answered a question from a thirteen year old about whether he - the young man - might someday go to space in such a craft. Paraphrasing Rutan's reply, the designer said "Yes." And then pausing,
"Now, I can say yes."