The Wirefly X Prize Cup kicked off Thursday with the exclusive X Prize Executive Summit, a high-powered brainstorming and networking event that brought together a distinguished group of the world's most influential entrepreneurs, astronauts, heads of NASA and the FAA, tech-industry experts and visionaries to talk about the future of the emerging personal-spaceflight industry.
Summit members participated in lively discussions moderated by X Prize Foundation chair Peter Diamandis, blogger and tech guru Esther Dyson, and PopSci´s own editor in chief, Mark Jannot, about the challenges and possibilities inherent in the nascent industry, which was more than once compared to the Internet in the late ´80s-ripe with potential but seemingly unfathomable and impractical to the general public.
The topics broached were no small potatoes: How can investors and customers be convinced of the viability of an as-yet-unproven industry? How should personal spaceflight be marketed-as a luxury thrill ride available only to the few, like climbing Everest or going on safari-or as a scientifically significant and potentially worldview-shifting experience that should be undertaken by many? How can people be convinced of the safety of personal spaceflight? Who will bear the burden of liability in the event that something goes wrong? These and other questions were discussed at length, opening a valuable dialogue about the industry that the X Prize Foundation hopes to keep alive with similar events in the future.
Popular Science had exclusive media access to the Executive Summit, which gave us a rare opportunity to interview space-industry leaders such as Virgin Galactic senior vice president and head of operations Alex Tai, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Elon Musk, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, NASA administrator Mike Griffin, former vice president Al Gore and others. We kept the forum discussions themselves off the record to help foster an open and uninhibited conversation among the participants, but we compiled the following video (see below) to give PopSci readers a taste of the fun and excitement of the day. We were also lucky enough to capture Al Gore´s stunning lunchtime speech about his stance on the Bush administration´s newly revised National Space Policy.
Stay tuned for more X Prize coverage as the main event unfolds today.