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SpaceShipOne turns blue to salute Paul Allen

SpaceShipOne
The SpaceShipOne rocket plane is illuminated in blue light at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The Saturday night lighting served as a tribute to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who backed the prize-winning SpaceShipOne project. (NASM / Steven VanRoekel Photo)

It wasn’t just Seattle’s skyline that turned blue on the night of Nov. 3: Back east in the nation’s capital, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum cast a blue spotlight on the history-making SpaceShipOne rocket plane in honor of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who provided the money that helped it fly to space.

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Book recounts how billionaires started a space race

Binnie, Allen and Rutan
Seattle billionaire Paul Allen (center) shakes the hand of SpaceShipOne pilot Brian Binnie in 2004 with rocket plane designer Burt Rutan by his side. (Photo courtesy of Scaled Composites LLC)

Commercial spaceflight seems to be hitting its stride right about now, thanks in part to the launch programs funded by billionaires such as SpaceX’s Elon Musk, Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos and Vulcan Aerospace’s Paul Allen.

But the spark for that entrepreneurial space was lit two decades ago, and a newly published book reveals how Musk, Bezos and Allen were striking some the matches way back when.

“How to Make a Spaceship,” written by Julian Guthrie, focuses on XPRIZE co-founder Peter Diamandis and his years-long quest to create a $10 million competition for private-sector spaceflight.

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