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Humans have been traveling around through space for a number of decades now, but this week a new landmark was reached that hints at the possibility that more people may be able to have similar experiences in the near future. On Monday, the privately funded spacecraft SpaceShipOne climbed to a height of 377,591 feet (or 71.5 miles), thereby winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize. The award is intended to spur civilian spaceflight, and it was also announced this week that the award will become an annual event. The financial support for SpaceShipOne came from Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. The timing of the flight was rather propitious, as it was made on the 47th anniversary of the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, a historic event which effectively began the so-called "space race" between those ever-frosty Cold War superpowers.The first link offered here leads to a news article from the Seattle Times that discusses this recent achievement. The second link offers some insights into the nature of these flights as reported by the New Zealand Herald. The third link will take visitors to an audio feature from National Public Radio that comments on the X Prize and several other related news events. The fourth link leads to the SpaceShipOne homepage, where visitors can learn about the spacecraft, view videos of the spacecraft in flight, and read the complete test logs for each flight. The fifth link leads to the very recently established Virgin Galactic company (started by that entrepreneurial gadfly Sir Richard Branson) which is attempting to "allow affordable sub-orbital space tourism". The sixth link will take visitors to the excellent site offered by NASA that contains information on the activities of the space shuttle program, several "Behind the Scenes" profiles of various NASA employees, and a good historical section that provides insight into previous space programs, such as Gemini and Apollo.
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