MOJAVE, Calif. — A stubby private rocket plane blasted through the Earth's atmosphere for a second time in two weeks Monday, capturing a $10 million prize meant to encourage space tourism.
A crowd of thousands of enthusiasts on the ground began celebrating as soon as SpaceShipOne appeared to have climbed just over 62 miles — generally considered to be the point where the Earth's atmosphere ends and space begins.
The rocket plane, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, took off from a desert runway slung to the belly of a carrier plane with test pilot Brian Binnie at the wheel. It was released at about 46,000 feet and fired its rockets to continue to the edge of space.
"This is the true frontier of transportation," said Marion C. Blakey, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, who stood near the runway to watch the space flight.
"It feels a little bit like Kitty Hawk must have," Blakey added.