There have been many critical moments in the history of space exploration -- Sputnik in 1957, Yuri Gagarin in 1961, Neil Armstrong in 1969 -- but if you look back over the history of manned happenings outside of the atmosphere, almost all of these moments were driven by government funds. You have to fast-forward all the way to October 4th, 2004, the moment that pilot Brian Binnie crested at an altitude of 112km in SpaceShipOne, to find a similarly important moment in the history of private space flight.
That moment wouldn't have come when it did, and may never have come at all, if there hadn't been some incentive. In 2004, XPRIZE (formerly the X Prize Foundation) paid $10 million to the Scaled Composites team headed up by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen for being first to make two trips to the edge of space in the span of two weeks. That single prize (which didn't come close to covering the team's expenses) ushered in a new era of private space travel and, for XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis, demonstrated the power of competition.
XPRIZE didn't stop there, and each year it asks for help from some of the world's greatest thinkers, tasking them to decide which of the world's many and myriad problems are ready for solutions. Join us as we take you on the inside.
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