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Spacecraft designer: 'We have reached our goal'


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SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill, left, and designer Burt Rutan
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Pilot Michael Melvill called the flight a 'mind-blowing experience.'

SpaceShipOne lands safely in the Mojave Desert.

The first privately funded spacecraft lifts off from an airstrip in the Mojave Desert.
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MOJAVE, California (CNN) -- SpaceShipOne soared into history Monday, becoming the first privately funded craft to reach space, defined as 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) above Earth's surface.

SpaceShipOne's pilot on the mission, Mike Melvill, and the ship's designer, Burt Rutan, spoke to CNN's Lou Dobbs on Monday.

DOBBS: First of all, congratulations, [this was] just a remarkable achievement. Mike, [what are] your thoughts when you're up there in space?

MELVILL: Well, it was an incredible experience to be able to look down at the beautiful Earth below me, all the colors of the desert and the blue ocean and white clouds over [Los Angeles]. And three minutes of complete weightlessness, [was] an experience that there is nothing to match, that I've ever seen in my life. And I feel very honored to have been chosen to do that.

DOBBS: Mike, you heard at one point in the flight a loud bang. ... Have you been able to determine what that was?

MELVILL: I think it was related to the engine. The engine sometimes does things like that. We did not have any failures, structural failures, so it was -- it had to have been a backfire or something out of the engine. It was a tremendous bang, though.

DOBBS: Burt Rutan, your courage has been longstanding, your vision, your dream of achieving this, [was] realized today. What are your emotions tonight?

RUTAN: In some ways, just complete relief, because this has been a three-year effort. It's been one in which we had just a little bit of money to produce an entire manned space program. So I've been under an enormous amount of pressure to make sure we get the technical job right, and also do all the elements, get all the people together, do all the flight tests, and all the engine tests, and build everything, simulator and so on, and make it all work together, and have a team just pull it off. We're doing this with a few dozen people. Actually we're only working about two dozen now. And that's normally something that's done with thousands of people. So it's a tough job, and today I'm enormously relieved that we have reached our goal.

DOBBS: And I know you have to be enormously proud of what you've been able to accomplish. Is this, in your judgment, a model for the future of private spacecraft in space?

RUTAN: Absolutely. When Wilbur Wright flew in Paris in 1908, people pretty much sorted out that if this bicycle shop guy can do it, that we can too. And in a very short period of time, there were a lot of airplanes in 39 different countries, so I think that is going to happen here.


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