A manned private spacecraft entered space for the first time on Monday. It only cost $21 million to build both the craft and the plane that carries it to 60,000 feet. Granted, it does not accomplish anything to make sub-orbital flights in such a small craft. Still, this is important.
To date, all space flight has been run by governments - either the US, Russia, or, as of a few months ago, China. These flights are amazingly expensive. They are also surprisingly dangerous - 40% of the Space Shuttle fleet has crashed.
Think of how fast air flight advanced. For space flight, however, we are using crafts designed in the 1970s and built in the 1980s. Why? Because of politics.
By coincidence, Bush's panel made its recommendations on the future of NASA last week. Their plan includes privatizing future low Earth orbit flights. The launch of SpaceShipOne shows that this can be done. It also shows that space craft can look cool.
So why was Jon Stuart making fun of it on the Daily Show?
Everyone else has linked to Slate's Unfairenheit 9/11.
Here's my link.
To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.