America’s Aerospace Valley is a unique location that not only changes the course of history in the skies but also draws large crowds to a banquet room to meet and honour the SpaceShipOne test pilot who made history almost two decades before.
The Ansari X Prize-winning test pilot Brian Binnie was scheduled to speak in the banquet room of Medrano’s Mexican Restaurant on the evening of May 19, according to the Antelope Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the Society of Flight Test Engineers, and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering.
At Burt Rutan’s renowned Scaled Composites factory at the Mojave Air and Space Port, every seat at every table was filled with Binnie’s former coworkers, along with a mixture of men and women in aerospace, some of whom were barely old enough to purchase alcohol on the October day in 2004 when Binnie flew SpaceShipOne to world altitude records and speed records for a winged aircraft, breaking the 1963 records set by the X-15 rocket plane.
Even younger foreign test pilot school pupils attended the event, including those from Switzerland, Australia, and Italy, among others.
Binnie received Astronaut Wings and the $10 million Ansari X Prize for the sponsors, which allowed for the privatisation of commercial space travel.
A high-level request from Washington that SpaceShipOne be quickly handed over for enshrinement in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum came as a blow to hopes for further research flights by that model in the future, Binnie told his audience, reflecting on an unexpected outcome he brought to light in his critically acclaimed first-person book, The Magic and Menace of SpaceShipOne, published in 2019.
A collaborative venture between Scaled and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Gallactic was announced a few months after SpaceShipOne won the award. TheSpaceShip Company, the new organisation, constructed SpaceShipTwo, and Branson relocated his spaceport to New Mexico.
Binnie shared his personal experiences at Mojave with other cars for more than an hour without using notes and while presenting slides.