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With test pilot Mike Melvill at the controls, the innovative SpaceShipOne is poised for its most ambitious test flight to reach the fringe of space.

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Stardust briefing
Scientist present new findings from the Stardust spacecraft's encounter with Comet Wild 2 in this news conference from NASA Headquarters on June 17. (26min 12sec file)
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New pictures explained
New pictures of Comet Wild 2 from NASA's Stardust spacecraft are shown here with narration by lead mission scientist Donald Brownlee. (3min 06sec file)
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Stardust's comet flyby
Animation depicting Stardust's flyby of Comet Wild 2 and the powerful jets of dust streaming from the comet's surface is presented with narration by scientist Benton Clark. (1min 59sec file)
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Moon-Mars commission
After releasing its report, the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond holds a news conference in Washington. (60min 18sec file)
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Ride with Opportunity
Cameras on Opportunity provides this "ride-along" view of the rover's risky drive into Endurance Crater. Expert narration by science team member Scott McLennan. (30sec file)
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Opportunity panorama
Another stunning color panorama from the Mars rover Opportunity looking into Endurance Crater and the surrounding plains is presented with expert narration by science team member Scott McLennan. (1min 30sec file)
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Spirit panorama
Spirit has generated this panorama from the base of the Columbia Hills. Expert narration is provided by science team member Larry Soderblom. (1min 15sec file)
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New Spirit pictures
New pictures from Mars rover Spirit showing the "Pot of Gold" rock area and other features are revealed with expert narration by science team member Larry Soderblom. (4min 47sec file)
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Look back to the first suborbital flight of SpaceShipOne with our status center coverage as it appeared live on June 21.

MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2004

A privately-built rocket plane soared into space today, boosting a 63-year-old test pilot on a thrilling, at times scary ride out of Earth's discernible atmosphere and into history as the first non government-sponsored astronaut. But SpaceShipOne will not fly again until the team of pilots and engineers figures out what triggered the failure of a critical flight control system during the climb to space. Read our full story.

1750 GMT (1:50 p.m. EDT)

The following statement was issued by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe on today's private, non-government flight of SpaceShipOne:

"We applaud the remarkable achievement of Burt Rutan, Paul Allen and test pilot Mike Melvill following the first successful suborbital flight of SpaceShipOne.

"Not unlike the first U.S. and Soviet space travelers in 1961, and China's first successful spaceflight this year, these private citizens are pioneers in their own right. They are doing much to open the door to a new marketplace offering the experience of weightlessness and suborbital space flight to the public.

"We congratulate the SpaceShipOne team and wish all those who may follow safe flights."

1728 GMT (1:28 p.m. EDT)

The post-flight news briefing continues. We will a full story a little later.

1728 GMT (1:28 p.m. EDT)

The altitude target was 100 km to reach what is considered the edge of space. The SpaceShipOne vehicle reached 100.1241 km today, reporters are being told.

1727 GMT (1:27 p.m. EDT)

The problem experienced during launch was a control system glitch during supersonic flight. That caused SpaceShipOne to miss its reentry box by 22 miles.

1722 GMT (1:22 p.m. EDT)

The top altitude reached was 328,491 feet, which is right at the threshold of space. That makes Mike Melvill an astronaut, and he is receiving his commemorative wings in a ceremony underway right now.

1720 GMT (1:20 p.m. EDT)

Mission officials say the flight of SpaceShipOne experienced a problem during the boost-phase of the craft's launch to space. Also, the vehicle was 22 miles out of the planned reentry box. A news conference is currently underway at Mojave.

1650 GMT (12:50 p.m. EDT)

A press conference is coming up shortly. Watch this page for additional news.

1635 GMT (12:35 p.m. EDT)

Melvill describes the view:

"The colors were pretty staggering from up there. Looking at the Earth from up there is almost like a religious experience. It is an awesome thing to see. You can see the curvature of the Earth. I could see all the way out past the islands off the coast of Los Angeles, I could see up to Bishop, I could see to San Diego. You've got a helluva view from 62 miles."

1630 GMT (12:30 p.m. EDT)

"It is hard for me to talk right now," says Burt Rutan, the brains behind SpaceShipOne.

"There were several times during the flight that in mission control tears came to our eyes because we had reached a specific part of the flight where we had gotten over a milestone...Up there in mission control there were three or four times during the flight everybody was extremely emotional," he said.

"I just can't tell you how pleased I am that the feather, which was our big risk, worked perfect, and how pleased I am that we have a ship that cannot only go to space but it is the first time that a winged-vehicle -- that can make this beautiful landing on a runway -- can make a care-free reentry. That is an enormous thing for safety."

1605 GMT (12:05 p.m. EDT)

"Man!" Melvill said, shaking his fists together as he climbed from SpaceShipOne. "I went pretty high, though. When I got to the top, I released a bag of M&Ms in the cockpit. It was absolutely amazing. M&Ms were going all around. It was so cool! We have got to have video of that because I did it in front of one of the video cameras. I haven't ate them. They are in the cockpit."

1600 GMT (12:00 p.m. EDT)

"I'm just a guy, an old guy," Melvill joked a little while ago.

Asked what he will do now, he said: "I think I will back off for a little bit and ride my bike."

1559 GMT (11:59 a.m. EDT)

"And I would like to say to Burt Rutan, my best friend in the whole world, this could not have been without such a brilliant brain that this guy has got," Melvill says.

"He thought of this. He thought of everything to make it work. And it all worked. Even when we argued with him and threw roadblocks in his way, he just drove over us and went to the goal. There are a very few people around who will keep their goal in mind like Burt will.

"My other thought is for Paul. Paul, I cannot believe that you gave us that much money and did not keep us held in control. You just said 'here's the money, go do it guys.' I'm in awe."

"I'm just so excited to be part of it," project-financier Paul Allen replied.

1555 GMT (11:55 a.m. EDT)

Below are some quotes from Melvill just minutes after landing:

"I was pretty scared when I heard a big bang back there. But everything seemed to go really, really well. I was very, very happy with the airplane. A lot of thrust when lit the motor and it really took me off guard. I got into the swing of it and it was good," he said.

"I feel great! I really do.

"The flight was spectacular, it really was. The view from up there -- I was so sad Burt and Paul couldn't be with me because looking out the window and seeing the white clouds over the LA basin just look like snow on the ground."

"It was a mind-blowing experience. It really was. Absolutely an awesome thing."

1537 GMT (11:37 a.m. EDT)

A post-flight press conference is expected in about 90 minutes.

1532 GMT (11:32 a.m. EDT)

He says he was weightless for three-to-three-and-a-half minutes. Altitude was over 300,000 feet.

1531 GMT (11:31 a.m. EDT)

"The flight was spectacular."

1531 GMT (11:31 a.m. EDT)

"I feel great. I really do."

1530 GMT (11:30 a.m. EDT)

"It was absolutely amazing!" Melvill tells reporters at the runway.

1528 GMT (11:28 a.m. EDT)

Mike Melvill has climbed out of SpaceShipOne! He is hugging the VIPs and celebrations continue.

1526 GMT (11:26 a.m. EDT)

Melvill has his hand out the porthole waving to the crowd and flashing a thumbs-up sign. The craft is being towed down the runway by a pickup truck.

1524 GMT (11:24 a.m. EDT)

Crews have begun to tow SpaceShipOne from the runway to the viewing spot for spectators and the press to see the craft up close following its voyage today.

1520 GMT (11:20 a.m. EDT)

To recap, the SpaceShipOne flew a safe, 24-minute free-flight today above Mojave, California. With its engine blasting the tiny craft skyward, SpaceShipOne rocketed to an unofficial altitude of 62 miles where the edge of space begins. Pilot Mike Melvill then brought the vehicle to a smooth touchdown on the same runway where the historic mission began.

1517 GMT (11:17 a.m. EDT)

SpaceShipOne will be towed to a viewing location shortly. A news conference is expected a little later today.

1516 GMT (11:16 a.m. EDT)

White Knight is making a low-altitude flyby down the runway.

1515 GMT (11:15 a.m. EDT)

SpaceShipOne has rolled to a stop on the Mojave Runway with Burt Rutan and Paul Allen pumping their fists in the air.

1514 GMT (11:14 a.m. EDT)

TOUCHDOWN! SpaceShipOne has returned to Earth safely!

1514 GMT (11:14 a.m. EDT)

The landing gear is down!

1513 GMT (11:13 a.m. EDT)

Approval has been given for landing gear deploy.

1513 GMT (11:13 a.m. EDT)

Surface winds are down the runway at 5 knots.

1512 GMT (11:12 a.m. EDT)

SpaceShipOne is banking around to the south for touchdown on Runway 30.

1511 GMT (11:11 a.m. EDT)

Dick Rutan says Melvill reporting hearing three large bangs during the flight. But the chase planes have examined SpaceShipOne and the craft looks OK.

1509 GMT (11:09 a.m. EDT)

SpaceShipOne is in view from the ground as it glides to landing.

1506 GMT (11:06 a.m. EDT)

Officials say SpaceShipOne reached 62 miles above Earth today! That is considered the edge of space. The Guinness Book of World Records flew a representative to Mojave today to verify the data from Air Force tracking radar.

1504 GMT (11:04 a.m. EDT)

Crowds are now eagerly awaiting the landing, and news on the apogee -- or highest altitude reached.

1502 GMT (11:02 a.m. EDT)

The chase aircraft says the aft end of SpaceShipOne -- around the rocket engine -- looks good. Some thermal effects on the nose are also reported.

1459 GMT (10:59 a.m. EDT)

The descent continues. Altitude is now roughly 30,000 feet. SpaceShipOne will glide to landing on the runway like an airplane.

1458 GMT (10:58 a.m. EDT)

"A pencil-thick contrail that went straight up" is how the launch was described from Mojave.

1457 GMT (10:57 a.m. EDT)

The top altitude reached is not yet known. About 62.5 miles was the target.

1456 GMT (10:56 a.m. EDT)

Edwards Air Force Base is feeding live radar tracking data to the controllers.

1455 GMT (10:55 a.m. EDT)

Melvill is now pulling 5 g's.

1455 GMT (10:55 a.m. EDT)

SpaceShipOne is now 316,000 feet in altitude.

1454 GMT (10:54 a.m. EDT)

Ground controllers say everything is going according to plan.

1453 GMT (10:53 a.m. EDT)

The pilot is not reporting any problems.

1452 GMT (10:52 a.m. EDT)

Mike Melvill is talking to controllers as his historic flight continues.

1452 GMT (10:52 a.m. EDT)

The engine firing has been completed. SpaceShipOne is now coasting to altitude.

1451 GMT (10:51 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 45 seconds. Engine continues to fire.

The engine is burning solid rubber propellant with liquid nitrous oxide - liquefied laughing gas - for this 80-second firing.

1451 GMT (10:51 a.m. EDT)

The vehicle is soaring straight up, rapidly accelerating!

1450 GMT (10:50 a.m. EDT)

IGNITION! The rocket engine on SpaceShipOne has fired to life, propelling the craft on its history-making trek to become the first private human spaceflight.

1450 GMT (10:50 a.m. EDT)

SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill has put the craft in a nose-up orientation for the vertical climb to space.

1450 GMT (10:50 a.m. EDT)

DROP! SpaceShipOne has been released from the White Knight mothership.

1449 GMT (10:49 a.m. EDT)

Go for release!

1448 GMT (10:48 a.m. EDT)

Officials now say three minutes remain in the countdown.

1443 GMT (10:43 a.m. EDT)

Crowds at Mojave are having a hard time spotting the craft now.

1442 GMT (10:42 a.m. EDT)

Controllers say launch is about 8 minutes away.

1436 GMT (10:36 a.m. EDT)

The altitude is now 33,000 feet and all systems remain "go" for launch.

1426 GMT (10:26 a.m. EDT)

The craft are directly over the viewing site now, leaving a long, white trail across the sky. They are on the final easterly leg of the climb to altitude. They will be turning to a westerly heading for the launch.

1417 GMT (10:17 a.m. EDT)

It is now 30 minutes into the hour-long flight of the carrier aircraft to reach launch altitude for SpaceShipOne.

Powerful Air Force radars are being used to track today's launch and provide an independent report on the actual altitude reached during SpaceShipOne's attempt to reach space.

1412 GMT (10:12 a.m. EDT)

Officials report everything is going smoothly this morning. "So far, so good," Dick Rutan says.

1408 GMT (10:08 a.m. EDT)

The White Knight/SpaceShipOne duo is now about 25,000 feet over California, heading for the launch spot nearly 50,000 feet up.

1400 GMT (10:00 a.m. EDT)

White Knight is climbing to the launch altitude by making wide circles over Mojave.

This twin-engine turbojet craft made its first flight in August 2002.

In addition to being the mothership to launch SpaceShipOne today, the White Knight's flying characteristics -- thrust-to-weight ratio and speed brakes -- allow it to be used as a flight simulator for SpaceShipOne pilot training.

1347 GMT (9:47 a.m. EDT)

TAKEOFF! The journey of SpaceShipOne is underway as the White Knight carrier aircraft departs the runway at Mojave Airport, California. SpaceShipOne is strapped to the underside of White Knight for the ferry ride to 46,000 feet above the desert. Launch will occur roughly an hour from now.

1345 GMT (9:45 a.m. EDT)

A larger chase plane is now airborne.

1341 GMT (9:41 a.m. EDT)

A small, red chase plane has just taken off.

1337 GMT (9:37 a.m. EDT)

White Knight and SpaceShipOne duo have emerged from the hangar, rolling past spectators to reach the runway in preparation for takeoff from the Mojave Airport a short time from now.

Pilot Mike Melvill has one of SpaceShipOne's portholes open and is waving to the cheering crowds.

1327 GMT (9:27 a.m. EDT)

The White Knight aircraft has started its engines. All systems are "go" for launch. Takeoff is now expected within the next half-hour.

1319 GMT (9:19 a.m. EDT)

Mission officials report that pre-launch activities are on schedule this morning. The weather is favorable with clear skies and winds that appear to be easing.

1300 GMT (9:00 a.m. EDT)

Takeoff of the White Knight mothership carrying SpaceShipOne is expected about 30 minutes from now. Skies are clear over the desert as the sun rises.

1250 GMT (8:50 a.m. EDT)

The International Space Station will be flying high above Mojave at approximately the time SpaceShipOne is scheduled to launch. The Expedition 9 resident crew will attempt to photograph the launch and contrail.

1235 GMT (8:35 a.m. EDT)

It is a beautiful morning in the Mojave desert. Winds are gusty -- about 20 knots -- but they are blowing down the runway. That is good news since crosswinds blowing across the runway would be a potential concern for the mission.

There is bumper-to-bumper traffic as tens of thousands flood into the airport to witness today's flight of SpaceShipOne along with several hundred reporters.

1215 GMT (8:15 a.m. EDT)

If all goes according to plan, history will be made today in the skies over Mojave, California.

Final preparations are currently underway for takeoff of the White Knight carrier aircraft with the SpaceShipOne craft mounted to its belly. The duo is expected to be airborne around 1330 GMT (9:30 a.m. EDT).

It will take about an hour for White Knight to reach an altitude of nearly 50,000 feet where SpaceShipOne is dropped at 1430 GMT (10:30 a.m. EDT) to ignite its rocket engine and blast to the fringes of space.

After an 80-second powered flight, SpaceShipOne will coast up to an altitude of roughly 62 miles then reenter the atmosphere and glide to a landing on the Mojave runway around 1455 GMT (10:55 a.m. EDT).

A successful flight would represent the first privately-owned manned flight to space, albeit a brief suborbital trip.

Watch this page for periodic updates throughout the day.

SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2004

Legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan and his small cadre of pilots and engineers fueled the privately-funded SpaceShipOne rocket plane Sunday and ran through a final few flight simulations in preparation for a history-making launch to the edge of space Monday.

With 62-year-old test pilot Mike Melvill at the controls, the innovative SpaceShipOne is poised for its most ambitious test flight, a voyage Rutan believes could open the door to a new era in aviation history.

"We want our children to go to the planets. We are willing to seek breakthroughs by taking risks," Rutan said at a crowded afternoon news conference. "And if the business-as-usual space developers continue their decades-long pace, they will be gazing from the slow lane as we speed into the new space age. This time, not for prestige but this time, to fulfill people's dreams.

"Yes, we will be doing barnstorming, just like the early airplanes. However, we're heading for orbit sooner than you think. And we know it's crucial to dramatically reduce the cost. We do not plan to stay in low-Earth orbit for decades, but to enable high adventure and exploration as soon as the new technologies allow. And so, hold on! The next 25 years will be a wild ride. That's my prediction, (a wild ride) that historians will note that was done for the benefit of everyone."

Takeoff is targeted for around 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT), weather permitting. The only issue, Rutan said, was a possibility for higher-than-allowable crosswinds at the desert runway. But otherwise, the spaceship was ready to go.

Read our full launch preview story.