09.15.06

X-Prize

Posted in science, sloan piggybacking, space at 12:49 am by wingerz

xprize

His name is Peter Diamandis and he is passionate about civilian space travel. He founded the X Prize competition, which culminated in last October’s well-publicized SpaceShipOne flight. Tonight he spoke at the MIT 100K Competition kickoff, and I tagged along with Jen.

The X Prize featured a $10 million purse. It was modeled after the prize that Charles Lindbergh won when he flew across the Atlantic. Turns out that this type of incentive, paired with ambitious but reachable goals, is a great way to move innovation along in certain areas. It also breaks psychological barriers for people; the hope is that space travel will take off (har) as aviation did after the first trans-atlantic flight.

Peter is leading several incredibly interesting projects now – X Prizes in other areas of science, zero-gravity flight, and the Rocket Racing League. His passion is so strong and genuine, and it is a pleasure to hear him speak. His guiding principles: If something can go wrong, fix it; if someone offers you two choices, take both; don’t take no for an answer. To illustrate his persistence: his plans for zero-gravity flight are over a decade old because it took 11 1/2 years of on-and-off discussions with FAA lawyers to agree that this was a safe thing to do. Once they were approved, they found out that they couldn’t purchase commercial aircraft, so they ended up converting weeknight-flight 727 cargo planes to weekend and daytime zero-gravity chambers.

Also, be sure to check out the Rocket Racing League. The standard rockets burn a combination of liquid oxygen and kerosene, producing a beautiful flame. Each racer has enough fuel for about 4 minutes of 1500-lb thrust, and it’s up to them to decide when to use it in racing around a virtual aerial track. The grand scheme is to have video game players at home racing alongside real racers (since they are all equipped with GPS sensors), and the best virtual player will get to compete alongside racing league finalists in a virtual cockpit. The videos look incredibly cool.

I find it so inspiring is that this guy set out to change space travel and actually did it. And I look forward to future space travel developments that result from his vision.