Last July, as it flew past Pluto, NASA’s space probe contained a small but significant piece of space history: a small carbon fiber piece of SpaceShipOne. Liz Nickels looks back at the groundbreaking composite commercial spacecraft eleven years on. 

On its own, it only went as far as suborbital flight; but a three inch piece of SpaceShipOne met the outer limits of the solar system this month. The component was part of a group of eight other mementos on board the New Horizons probe, as it made its historic fly past Pluto, coming away with the clearest pictures evertaken of the dwarf planet. The autoclaved carbon fiber piece, part of the pilot seat made from preimpregnated carbon fabric and LTM 45 epoxy, represented the wide range of the reinforced plastic materials used to build the innovative craft. 

In keeping with the tradition of space mementos, the SpaceShipOne piece includes a message about its significance. Side one reads, ‘to commemorate its historic role in the advancement of spaceflight, this piece of SpaceShipOne is being flown on another historic spacecraft: New Horizons. New Horizons is Earth’s first mission to Pluto, the farthest known planet in our solar system.’ Side two reads: ‘SpaceShipOne was Earth’s first privately funded manned spacecraft. SpaceShipOne flew from the United States of America in 2004.’

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