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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
'Ordinary names' to go into space
Artwork of space tourists floating inside a spacecraft (Image: X-Prize Foundation)
The X-Prize should open the door to space tourism
Budding space tourists who cannot wait until private space travel arrives are being given the chance to have their names at least taken outside Earth.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History is working with the Ansari X-Prize organisers to send names to space on SpaceShipOne's 29 September flight.

Built by pioneer Burt Rutan, it will be the first to try to win the prize.

The $10m (5.7m) prize rewards the team to send a non-government three-person craft over 100km, twice in two weeks.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for the general public to participate in an innovative, new space product," said Jack Moore, from the museum.

People wanting to send their name into space will have to part with $10.

Name change

SpaceShipOne has already entered the history books by becoming the first private spacecraft to reach space's official 100km boundary; a feat achieved on 21 June.

Its historic X-Prize attempts will take place over the Californian Mojave desert, where the headquarters for its creators, Scaled Composites, is located. The second flight is scheduled for 4 October.

Altogether 26 teams are competing for the prize, but only two have the technology and money to do so imminently, and have given their required 60-days' notice to the X-Prize Foundation.

A Canadian team announced earlier in the month that its first attempt by its balloon-launched rocket, Wild Fire, would take place on 2 October, two days before SpaceShipOne's second flight.

On Wednesday, the outfit officially announced its name would be changed from the da Vinci Project team to the rather long-winded Space Project: Powered by the da Vinci Project.

The team had been struggling to come up with the required funds to launch its attempt, but then a sponsor stepped forward in the shape of online gambling site Golden Palace.

Private incentive

If SpaceShipOne's first flight is not successful in reaching the required altitude, the names will be taken to space on Wild Fire.

Those who have signed up will then be sent their very own certificate.

SpaceShipOne's space view (Image: Scaled Composites)
SpaceShipOne reached space and history books in June
Wild Fire team leader, Brian Feeney, said a scaled version of the rocket's launch balloon carrying a 400lb load (180kg), would be flown to 50,000ft (15km) in a September test flight.

Ground test launches are scheduled to start on 31 August and run throughout September.

The X-Prize is seen as significant because it encourages competition between non-government groups to open space to commercial travel.

Burt Rutan, SpaceShipOne's designer, has predicted that mass space tourism for thousands could happen within 10 to 15 years, for about $30,000 (17,000).

The prize also encourages the development of reusable space aviation technology.

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