On June 21st, an entrant in the Ansari X-Prize contest will attempt to make history. The contest seeks to award the first non-governmental manned spacecraft to reach space. SpaceShipOne, funded entirely by private money, is one such entrant.
While private aviation prizes are nothing new (Charles Lindbergh’s flight from New York to Paris the result of him entering a contest), the idea of opening up space flight and exploration to private interests does fudge a bit with the view of the final frontier that has been so carefully doled out to us for years. Space travel, we are told, is the sole domain of either NASA, Starfleet (when their officers are not being thrown back in time to meet Space Nazis), The Earth Alliance, or The Time Lords, who are the body responsible for both space and time.
Anyway, space travel, as we’ve known it has always been a government operation, free of commercial interests (mostly). When sci-fi writers saw Earth expanding into space, most saw it as being a function of government, with the exception of Aliens. I can’t imagine a U.S.S. Enterprise with a Pepsi logo slapped across the hull but still, it would be interesting to see what kind of influence wide-spread space travel would have on contemporary science fiction. It would make Star Trek look like Nascar.