Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Sunday, February 12, 2006

21st Century Exploration Power Team

Steve Fossett did it! He landed at the UK’s Bournemouth Airport after having flown solo for 26,389.3 miles in 76 hours 45 minutes and thereby shattering every record.

Was I impressed? Yes, certainly – of course. But not nearly as impressed as I was at the trilateral power machine that made it happen – and I’m not talking about the airplane. Surprisingly, it is the same machine responsible for other exploration firsts, including the first private space venture.

Let me introduce the 21st century power team to you:

THE EXPLORER’S ENERGY: Steve Fossett. A wealthy 60+ commodities trader turned adventurer and record setter. If there’s a record out there not shattered, Steve wants his name all over it.

THE POWER OF MONEY: Sir Richard Branson. Into this already volatile mix steps Richard Branson. With the same name as the American Ozark mountains playground, Branson is anything but – he is all polished British. He is also amazingly wealthy – a billionaire plus. He also has a real personality. He also loves exploration and wants to have his name (think Virgin Airlines) painted on its side.

THE TECHNINCAL DREAMER: Burt Rutan. Burt is truly a technical genius. He is also a visionary. Put these traits together and you have a very dangerous man. He has his sights on opening space for every man, but you have to travel through the air to get there – so he also knows aviation pioneering. Rutan knows all there is to know about futuristic power plants , engines and lightweight materials.

Assemble these three in the same room and something happens. Something powerful. Something wonderful. Records are shattered. Lives are changed. History is nudged into a different direction. It happens all the time.

Remember back to the year 1490 in Portugal. Remember when the same team formed up? There was Christopher Columbus and all his pent-up explorer’s energy. He was so ADHD when it came to exploring, he actually followed the King’s court around for 10 years waiting for the right time to ask for money to find a new route to Cathay. Then there were the ship builders of Portugal. They were known for their small, fast and rugged ships – they possessed the technical know-how to make Columbus’ dream happen. Then there was the royal court of Isabella, Queen of Castile. She turned Columbus’ nutty idea down twice before finally acquiescing after a court aide reminded her it would cost less than a single royal party - even if Columbus sailed off the end of the earth. She had the power to spend the cash. Together, the three forces came together and human history was changed radically and forever.

I really, really respect the Fossett-Rutan-Branson team. But there are others. There must be others. There are worlds to be discovered, new lands to be settled, whole new civilizations to be founded. These are not the only three power teams on earth. And their formula for success is not original. It is as old as human exploration.

Shown in photos: Fossett, Branson, Rutan