Like others involved in New-Space, Armadillo has plans to launch commercial flights to the edge of the atmosphere this year. And it intends to enter the adventure tourism business, offering space diving (skydiving, only much higher), and building ships that carry paying, floating customers to space. While Virgin has been marketing itself as the luxury carrier for suborbital flight, Armadillo's prices will be low enough to meet a much larger market. "Our stuff is definitely going to be a lot more Buck Rogers than Virgin Galactic," Blink says. "They spent a lot of time with a European designer to make it look really slick. Ours is really, 'OK strap yourself onto the foam and we're gonna light the candle and here you go.'"

With NASA facing an uncertain future, a team of Dallas rocketeers competes in the race to privatize the final frontier
Mark Graham
With NASA facing an uncertain future, a team of Dallas rocketeers competes in the race to privatize the final frontier
Armadillo engineer Neil Milburn
in a team jumpsuit decked
out in patches from past
X Prize Cup events in which Armadillo has competed
Mark Graham
Armadillo engineer Neil Milburn in a team jumpsuit decked out in patches from past X Prize Cup events in which Armadillo has competed

Adds Carmack, "You see over and over in business and in engineering, when costs come down for any given capability, it winds up being exploited in ways that people never even considered." That's about as dreamy as he gets about the prospects for space—no poetry, no science fiction, just his faith in new markets to spark innovation. "That's a trap that people fall into, they put their eyes on the stars instead of where their next foot is landing," he says. "I want to stay pragmatically focused. It's going to happen that just one of these days we look around and we're there."

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