Xeni on NPR: report from SpaceShipOne launch at Mojave

On today's edition of the NPR program "Day to Day" , I report from the Mojave airport spaceport on yesterday's launch of SpaceShipOne. The craft was funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and designed by Burt Rutan's team at Scaled Composites.

"SS-1" is the top contender in the race for the Ansari X-prize, a global competition to build the first viable commercial spaceship. The winning team will receive a $10 million award. For SpaceShipOne, that amounts to only half of the $20 million or so Allen invested — clearly, the competition is about more than a cash prize.

Jason DeFillippo joined me and Day to Day producer Nihar Patel for the trip to Mojave — Jason took some absolutely terrific photos of the launch, flight, landing, and the surreal scene around the airstrip. Link. In this photo, I'm one of a number of silly-looking reporters all squinting intently at the sky and holding their hands against the sun. We were trying to catch a glimpse of a distant SpaceShipOne during its ascent. Vetern tech and space journalist John Schwartz from the New York Times is there in the blue shirt (here's his story: Link). Right about then, Nihar yells out, "HELIOS, THOU ART MY LORD" really loud, which made everyone crack up because we really did look goofy. Like we were participating in an ancient sun-cult ritual, or at least a Planet of The Apes episode.

Link to archived radio segment: NPR Day to Day "First X-Prize Flight a Success for SpaceShipOne", with some of Jason's photos. Link to previous BoingBoing post on yesterday's event, and Link to more of Jason's awesome images.