October 4, 2004
This morning, at 6:50 am, Brian Binnie took off in SpaceShipOne to win the $10 million X-Prize and break the altitude record for a manned aircraft. The morning air was crisp and the crowd was still with anticipation.
The planes climbed in tandem for forty minutes, and when the separation finally came at nearly fifty thousand feet (after three consecutive and breath-baiting two-minute warnings), the flare of the rocket was visible with the naked eye. The contrails separated and everyone craned their necks to see the ship climb to the heavens. The engines burned for 84 seconds, and when they shut off, SpaceShipOne was moving at over Mach 3.
And all I could do was stare. All anyone could do was stare.