Vol. 2, Issue 26, June 29, 2004
Norway Files for X-Prize, Claiming Vikings Beat SpaceShipOne to Space
A recent archeological discovery has led to an astonishing claim by world famed explorer Dr. Thor Heyerdahl, asserting that a privately funded, reusable vessel had already reached space not once or twice, but seven times.
"We have already shown that the Vikings were tremendous explorers whose reach extended around the globe well before later European explorers," Heyerdahl said in a press conference in Oslo. "It is well known that research in Vatican archives demonstrated that Leif Ericson did discover The New World, circa 1000 AD; but those manuscripts also hinted at some apparently legendary exploits around the same time period which we may now describe as factual."
The manuscripts described the attempts of Bothvar Mordson to collect money from the Nordic thunder-god Thor, who supposedly had lost a bet. In the fragmented tale, Bothvar built a large catapult and tried to launch a vessel to Asgard, the home of the gods.
"The Bothvar Saga has been considered rather apocryphal, despite several telling details; he describes not being able to breathe and seeing the world below as a great sphere," noted Heyerdahl. "But the discovery of his vessel, the Tryggvi, in a dig near Bergen, we must seriously consider that the manuscript is actually an historical account."
According to the narrative, Bothvar outfitted his ship with some unusual design enhancements, including lots of extra nails and a crude pair of wooden wings, which made identification of the vessel comparatively easy upon discovery. Moreover, the well-preserved craft bears clear signs of several major repairs, lending credence to the Bothvar Saga's assertion that Bothvar launched the ship into space seven times before giving up. On later trips, he and his men held his breath.
"From the description of Bothvar's efforts in the manuscript, it does seem that he met the requirements for the X-prize," admitted Gregg Maryniak, executive director of the Ansari X Prize. The X Prize is a $10 million award intended to spur development of the space tourism industry. It is to be awarded to the first privately financed venture which carries 3 people into space and repeats the launch with the same ship within 2 weeks.
"Bothvar was kind of obsessed, and maybe a little crazy," said Maryniak. "It's too bad he didn't get his money back, but he did launch 25 people into space seven times over the course of a single month."
The X Prize Foundation is deliberating whether to award the money to Norway, since although the Tryggvi did meet the criteria set forth by the foundation, it is not certain that rewarding a thousand year old flight will have the positive effect on space research and development originally intended.
"This is a loophole no one saw coming," admitted designer Burt Rutan of the SpaceShipOne team. "But I have to say, we didn't even consider catapults as a viable propulsion system. Maybe there's a silver lining in this cloud after all."