Chair Force Engineer

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Heinlein Award

The much-anticipated Heinlein Award has been awarded to Peter Diamandis, father of the X-Prize, X-Prize Cup, Zero-G Corporation, and Rocket Racing League. Overall, I think it was a good choice.

My three candidates for the Heinlein Award were Burt Rutan, Max Hunter, and Buzz Aldrin.
--Rutan's inclusion on that list is obvious, for his work on SpaceShipOne.
--Max Hunter (the least-known of my candidates) deserves recognition for his work on the Starclipper and X-Rocket, which agitated the pot for more reusable launch vehicles. The X-Rocket inspired the DC-X, while Starclipper would have been a better option for NASA's space shuttle than the design that emerged.
--Buzz Aldrin's accomplishments after his moonwalk have inspired our future plans for solar system exploration. Before there was the Columbia Disaster and ESAS, Aldrin had written Encounter With Tiber, which talked about the Endeavour disaster, shuttle-derived rockets, Burt Rutan winning the X-Prize, flyback boosters, Apollo II flying to the moon, cyclers, and landings on Mars.

Rutan would have been an easy choice, but Diamandis, in hindsight, was the correct choice. While Rutan succeeded in building one spaceship, Diamandis is trying to create an entire industry based around the idea of private spaceflight. Besides, Rutan pissed off a lot of people by bashing ESAS as "archaeology" and brushing off the Rocket Racing League.