British billionaire Richard Branson's dream of space travel that thousands of people can afford took a leap toward reality with the maiden flight of the world's first commercial spacecraft over California's Mojave Desert.
A third person died Friday from an explosion at a rocket test pad operated by a private company in California's southern Mojave Desert, according to the nursing supervisor at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield.
An explosion at an airport home to Scaled Composites -- the builder of the first private manned rocket to reach space -- killed two people and left four seriously hurt Thursday, a Kern County Fire Department official says.
If you want to view the entrepreneurial future of space travel, start in Los Angeles. Drive 100 miles northeast until you reach sun-baked Mojave (population 3,800). Head to the local airport. Don't expect to see launchpads or fancy command centers--there are none to be found. Yet history is being made here: In 2004 the Federal Aviation Administration certified Mojave Airport as a civilian spaceport. Burt Rutan's company, Scaled Composites, has its headquarters near the runways, and it was from here that his SpaceShipOne became the first private spacecraft to carry a passenger beyond the stratosphere.
If all goes well over the California desert Monday morning, Michael Melvill, 62, a veteran test pilot, will become the first civilian flier to earn his astronaut's wings aboard a privately financed spacecraft.