Press Release

X Prize Teams Vow to Continue the ‘Conquest of Space’

By SpaceRef Editor
February 12, 2003
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Twenty-four teams from Seven Nations honor the legacy of Columbia’s crew by forging ahead


St. Louis, MO (February 6, 2003)– “X PRIZE Teams around the world wish to honor the legacy of the crew of Shuttle Columbia by reaffirming their commitment to privately design, build and launch a new generation of spaceships,” stated Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation today. As he released statements from X PRIZE team leaders, Diamandis said: “At a time when both the value of their work and the risks it entails are readily apparent, The X PRIZE Foundation remains committed to supporting the efforts of these 24 brave and innovative teams.” 


The X PRIZE competition is a $10 million prize for the first private team to fly 100 kilometers (62 miles) to space, return to Earth and repeat the flight within two weeks. A winner is expected in the next 12-24 months. The X PRIZE competition, the first-ever space-based incentive competition, follows in the footsteps of more than 100 aviation incentive prizes offered in the early 20th Century that created today’s $300 billion-dollar commercial air transport industry.  The most significant of these prizes was the Orteig Prize, won by Charles Lindbergh for his 1927 flight from New York to Paris.


“History teaches us that the early days of any frontier or new transportation system are the most risky,” continued Diamandis.  “The best way to overcome that risk is to manufacture spacecraft incrementally and fly them more frequently — learning from our experience and making improvements.”


Statements from the X PRIZE teams on the Columbia Tragedy:


American Astronautics Corporation, Oceanside, CA, USA

“Now it is more important that ever to bring space travel into the commercial sector. The X PRIZE Competition encourages the private sector to bring together diverse concepts and efforts in opening the space frontier to the public.  American Astronautics Corporation continues our X PRIZE project with increased determination towards meeting the vision of public space travel and the goals embraced by the New Spirit of St. Louis Organization.”

 – Bill Sprague, Team leader


IL Aerospace Technologies, Tel Aviv, Israel

“Like others on the STS-107 crew, Col. Ramon was a true hero with a distinguished career in our country. He will remain in the hearts and minds of every Israeli for a long time to come. Despite this terrible tragedy, we plan to press on – however difficult that path may be.  I’m 100 percent sure that Col. Ramon would have agreed with our decision.  I strongly believe that it is every team’s obligation, together with the X PRIZE Foundation, to continue to move forward in order to prove to critics and the world that the STS-107 crew did not die in vain. We would like to pass this message of encouragement to the rest of the teams.”  

Dov Chartarifsky, Team Leader


TGV Rockets, Bethesda, MD, USA

“The recent tragic loss of the Columbia has served to urge the TGV Team forward in the goal of opening the space frontier.  Every new frontier has tragic losses, and space is no different. The early mariners, the early aviators, and the polar explorers all had setbacks and Columbia tragically is also a setback from which we can all learn vital lessons and draw inspiration. TGV is dedicated to providing a robust commercially viable space access capability and we believe with a healthy industry, the loss of any one vehicle will not halt humanity’s destiny amongst the stars.”

– Kent Ewing, Chairman


The da Vinci Project, Toronto, Canada

This tragedy of Columbia demonstrates the need for diversity, alternative approaches to spaceflight and new and current hardware and design solutions. Obviously we must all get past the initial shock and loss of colleagues in an industry we love. We can, we must and we will push forward. The X PRIZE is not only about getting into space in a safe and low-cost fashion, it also is a grand statement of human achievement, showing the world what can be done by applying ones WILL to a worthy goal.


Our team has been discussing the event as one might expect. There isn’t a single person in our organization of 200 strong who does not want to go forward. Indeed the content of the discussion is propelling us to achieve our goal. The X PRIZE is the catalyst which has started a great adventure for all of us, one that will impact the world in a plurality of ways. The da Vinci Project is totally committed to seeing the project through to a successful manned launch.

– Brian Feeney, Team Leader


The Advent Team, Houston, TX, USA

“Yes, the recent Shuttle loss is a tragedy.  But it amplifies the need to refocus the space program.  The high cost of the government space program documents the excessive complexity of the equipment.  The relatively simple commercial space vehicles being developed in pursuit of the X PRIZE will demonstrate the desired reliability along with reduced cost.  The loss of the Shuttle further motivates the Advent Team to proceed with our vehicle development. Hopefully we will be able to convince people that the space program is still in its infancy.  The technology has been developed, but it awaits commercial application.  The best effort will be to avoid additional regulations.”

– Jim Akkerman, Team Leader


ARCA Team, Romania

“ARCA will continue in the X PRIZE Competition! The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew is very painful, but all members of the ARCA X PRIZE Team want to continue their work. Why? Because we are not demoralized. The heroes who perished aboard Columbia gave their lives for you and others like you to continue to work to go to space. The Soyuz program cost lives as did the Apollo and Shuttle programs. No one wants to go backwards. Why now? Because we also must take into account that in the X PRIZE Competition the tasks are much smaller than those imposed on an orbital flight. We are about to take new steps into space flight. The private industry is ready!”

– Dumitru Popescu ARCA Chairman

Interorbital Systems, Mojave, CA, USA

“Now that the US Shuttle fleet is grounded, even more emphasis must be placed on supporting the efforts of new commercial rocket companies who are working to provide alternative access to space. The X PRIZE will serve to bring these new launch entities into the public eye, and ideally, generate private sector funding. Now more than ever, the ability to launch and return crews safely to Earth has become a matter not only of national security, but also one of taking the next step in human evolution. Exploration is always fraught with risk, but if someone hadn’t taken that first risky step into the light, we’d still be living in caves. Loss of life is tragic, but in the space business we expect and accept this risk. All machines will eventually fail. Cars, trains, and airplanes do, so why should the Shuttle be immune from the harshness of statistical reality? We can’t let fear of death stop us from living, or prevent us from blazing beyond what could be perceived as our limits.”

– Randa and Roderick Milliron, Team Leaders


Canadian Arrow, London, Ontario, Canada

“The Canadian Arrow team joins the world in mourning the deaths of the seven men and women who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia.  Their courage, idealism and belief in the importance of humanity’s exploration of space will continue to inspire us as we move closer to the day when the journey into space is safe and accessible for all of us.  We have been heartened in recent days, to receive many messages of encouragement from Canadians who understand our goals.  They believe that our work, inspired and supported by the X PRIZE Foundation, follows in the spirit and intent of all space pioneers, including the seven we mourn.  Our mission is all the more purposeful because of this great loss.”

– Geoffrey Sheerin, Team Leader


Pioneer Rocketplane, Solvang, California, USA

“We honor Columbia’s astronauts, and it is for us, the living, to rededicate ourselves to the goal that they gave their lives for: manned space flight.”

-George French, Team Leader


Pablo De Leon and Associates, Buenos Aires, Argentina

“In these sad days for the world and the space community, the X PRIZE’s Argentine team wants to pay our respects to the astronauts’ families and the space community for the terrible loss of Columbia’s brave crew. Columbia’s astronauts deserve our efforts to continue space exploration as fast and safely as possible.”


“As humans, is it our nature to explore and take risks. We have to accept the risks of such a great enterprise and learn from every experience in order to keep going and make space safer for exploration.  What a terrible disservice we would be making to those courageous Columbia astronauts if we did not pursue their (and our) dreams of opening the space frontier. What a waste, if we don’t keep take our hopes moving forward. What a shame, if we consider space to be too dangerous a place for humans.”


“Our X PRIZE team in Argentina will remember the brave Columbia crew and pay homage by working as hard as we can, as much as we can, and as bold as we can to ensure the human presence in space for future generations.”

– Pablo De Leon, Team Leader


Fundamental Technology Systems, Orlando, FL, USA

“The great thing about the human spirit is that in the face of adversity those with conviction only get stronger and more determined.  The X PRIZE competition and the work of the X PRIZE Foundation was and remains a strong catalyst to those of us with the resolve to aim high.”

 – Ray Nielsen and Jim Toole, Team Leaders


Kelly Space & Technology, Inc., San Bernardino, CA, USA

“It is an innate human characteristic to explore the unknown, even at great personal risk.  From the foundation of our United States and maintaining our freedoms held so dearly by most, to mankind’s quest into space — risk accompanies all things truly worth pursuing.  The Columbia tragedy does not cause us to reconsider our dreams as too risky, but rather strengthens our resolve to make safe, routine and affordable access to space for humankind a reality.  I am confident that our fellow visionaries who gave their lives for the advancement of human presence in space would wish for our industry and nation to press on.  We at Kelly Space & Technology, Inc. remain committed to forging ahead in the pursuit of our shared vision.”

– Michael J. Gallo, President


Micky Badgero, Bath, MI, USA

“My heart goes out to the families of those lost to us in the Space Shuttle Columbia accident.  Knowing the risks, they died doing what they loved.  NASA will find and fix the problem with the Space Shuttle.  Knowing the risks, others will return to space on the Shuttle to continue the work that these seven brave astronauts gave their lives for.  I will continue my efforts to meet the challenge of the X PRIZE, knowing the risks, and knowing that the gains are so much greater.

– Micky Badgero, Team Leader

Lone Star Space Access, Houston, TX, USA

“The officers, scientists, engineers and staff of Lone Star send our most sincere condolences and prayers to the families of the brave astronauts of the space shuttle Columbia. We are deeply saddened by the loss. Many of us at LSSA worked at NASA on the shuttle program and were part of the NASA-JSC family. We know how hard this tragedy must be and our hearts go out to all of the dedicated people at NASA and their contractors.


“We believe, more than ever, that our efforts and the efforts of the other X PRIZE contenders are essential to the goal of advancing initiatives in space. As sad as the Columbia tragedy is, we must not dishonor the memory of those brave people by turning back from the dream they held so dear. Instead, we must use this experience, and be inspired by their dream, to galvanize our resolve toward building the vision of space exploration and space industry that they believed in so strongly. We at LSSA rededicate ourselves to the goal of achieving routine access to space and to the goals and vision of the X-PRIZE.”

-Norm LaFave, Team Leader


Micro-Space, Denver, CO, USA

“God Bless the Columbia crew, and those who will follow: for a while the public will better understand the courage of modern pioneers. The main routes into northern California cross Donner Pass – that great barrier where the Donner Party suffered in 1846. Their courageous efforts opened the way to rich new territory, and so will the efforts of today’s spaceflight pioneers. It was only after careful thought – and prayer – that we chose to follow the example of the Columbia crew and other pioneers – fully understanding the risks just as they did – and prepared to venture into space. Those risks have not changed. We salute this crew, as we prepare to follow them into space.”
– Richard P. Speck, Team Leader

Armadillo Aerospace, Mesquite, TX, USA

“It is worth considering why the Columbia disaster is seen as more of a tragedy than the many other accidents that happen every day.  I believe that people still recognize on some level that flying in space represents humanity striving to exceed itself, and that makes it noble.  Dying in a noble pursuit, as a representative of mankind, touches people across many boundaries.”
-John Carmack, Team Leader


PanAero, Inc., Fairfax, VA, USA

“Although we all mourn the loss of the seven astronauts, the loss of Columbia emphasizes the need for better access to space. The X PRIZE is more important now than ever, because the prize can be an important stepping stone for gaining credibility for small, unproven companies. Some of these companies–like PanAero, Inc.–have designs that are more ambitious than their concepts for the X PRIZE. These designs could result in much more frequent, much more reliable, and much lower-cost access to space. For example, PanAero believes that $100 million dollars would be sufficient in a commercial development environment for a qualified small company to develop a small space transport that would be capable of reaching the International Space Station within 27 months with a pilot and three passengers for a recurring cost of $250,000 per flight. PanAero’s concept for alternate access to the ISS is based upon existing American and Russian components.”

-Len Cormier, Team Leader


Starchaser, Cheshire, England

“Our first tentative steps into space have been made possible by the commitment and dedication of a few brave pioneers, the tragic loss of Columbia reminds us of the ultimate commitment we as humans give to open up new frontiers.”

“The X-Prize epitomises the spirit of adventure and discovery that drives and shapes our very future.  We at Starchaser Industries pay tribute to those brave pioneers and by standing on the shoulders of giants we will push forward in our bid to open up space for humanity.”

-Steve Bennett, Team Leader


Electronic images of all X PRIZE entries are available on the X PRIZE website ( or by contacting Ian Murphy at 202-662-1280 or via email:   Video B-ROLL is available in beta format upon request. Interviews with Dr. Peter Diamandis (Chairman) or Gregg Maryniak (Executive Director) or the teams are possible by contacting Ian or Diane Murphy at 202-662-1280, or in Los Angeles at: 323-467-1455.   

SpaceRef staff editor.