The Doom Patrol

John Carmack, fourth from left, and his crew at the Oklahoma Spaceport, with the craft called Pixel

So, Virgin Records' Richard Branson wants to create the world's first private spaceline by 2009, costing folks some $200,000 for two hours in space. And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is out in West Texas testing his own private spaceship. And PayPal's co-founder Elon Musk is investing his own fortune into building a private U.S.S. Enterprise just outta L.A. Sounds like them fellas, and a bunch of other rich guys who fancy themselves nerdier Han Solos, just saw The Astronaut Farmer; funny, no one else did.

The latest issue of Time features a story about these well-heeled space cowboys, and among their ranks is id Software's John Carmack. Reports Cathy Booth Thomas, the co-creator of Doom and Quake is "test-firing rockets for the next generation of spaceliners and lunar landers near Dallas."

It would make sense for a local to get involved in the personal-luxury space race: The Ansari X Prize Foundation, which awards $10 million a year to breakthroughs in private space travel, is based in California but has a significant local tie in Plano's Anousheh Ansari, who, last September, became the first "female private space explorer" when she traveled to the International Space Stationwith the Expedition 14 crew.

Time says "the oddest-looking suborbital ride" belong to Carmack, who is building "podlike contraptions that sometimes land on all fours. Sometimes not." His company's called Armadillo Aerospace, and you can keep up with their progress by going here every few weeks. The site also features plenty of photos and video -- as well as the confusing mission statement that "the team currently consists of a bunch of guys, a girl, and an armadillo named Widget, [and] our fearless leader, John Carmack, will lead us to space and, well, outer space." --Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky