Moon shot

Burt Rutan, who will be speaking at the 2006 ideaFestival, roasted small thinking at the Los Angeles International Space Development Conference, comparing NASA's new moon vision to an earthly science, archeology.

'I believe that program, as taxpayer-fundedresearch, makes absolutely no sense,' he said. 'And the reason I believe that is that they're forcing the program to be done with technology that we already know works, and are not creating an environment where it is possible to make a breakthrough.'

He said the Apollo-based program guarantees 'that you are not going to learn anything new here that is useful for you to go on to the other moons.'

He wondered whether NASA's new space vision was 'really a training program' for young engineers who were not familiar with the achievements of the Apollo era. 'You could also describe it possibly as archaeology,' he quipped.

He also expressed at the conference his desire to go to the moon in his lifetime. As the target of a few of his zingers, one can imagine NASA, a la Jackie Gleason, wanting to send him there.

Rutan won the first X-PRIZE in 2004 with SpaceShipOne. The X-PRIZE Foundation also announced at the meeting that it would manage NASA's Lunar Lander Challenge.