Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
  Travelling into space
Well it was very exciting being there for the launch of SpaceShipOne into space. While they did make their 100km altitude, it turns out that they made it by the thinnest of margins, and with great difficulty.

There were no less than four serious malfunctions during the flight. There were un-planned rolls during the rocket firing, it cut off early, some strange banging noises from the rear during flight, and there was some loss of attitude control up in space. All in all, Mike was lucky to make it back in one piece. While they had planned to pass the goal by 20,000 feet, they ended up only getting to 100.12km, or 310 feet past. Cutting it rather close. Burt has some serious repair work to take care of before this thing goes up in the air again, and he's said that most likely they'll need another test flight before trying for the x-prise. (The x-prize group has also mentioned that they require 50 days advanced notice before an attempt, and so far they haven't received any notice from anybody.)

I found a few more pictures from various articles. The best ones are of SS1 coming back in for landing. Here's one taken from the chase plane, as it passes over the parking lot (I'm there in the fourth row, silver van, near the bottom):

You can also see the crowds on the flight line as it lined up for touchdown on the runway,

And finally a view from the crowds. I'm not sure what's in the background there. It looks kind of like the outskirts of the Mos Eisley spaceport, but its just the local fauna and accumulated junk of Mojave.

As far as going back, I've been thinking about what it would mean for me and for the space program. Out of the three possible upcoming launches, I think I might go back for the final x-prize attempt. That would be when the prize was won. Maybe there'd be some cooler stuff at the merchandise tent by then, though we scored this last time by waiting until the launch, and then picking up "I was there" postcards which had been postmarked with the date. The rest of the stuff--tshirts, hats, cups--was all available on the web site, which takes all the fun out of it.

Some suggestions for the crowds returning next time (and the times after that):

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Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

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The Lack of Practise Effect

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Scramjets take to the air
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A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
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