Brian Binnie, the former Navy pilot who recently guided the first and last flights of the history-making civilian spacecraft SpaceShipOne, will recount the experience at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, in Virginia Tech's Burruss Hall Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Binnie, a program manager and test pilot for Scaled Composites, the company that created SpaceShipOne, first flew the spacecraft in December 2003 on its inaugural test flight. In September 2004 test pilot Mike Melvill flew the first of two Ansari X Prize competition flights over the Mojave Desert.

Five days later on Oct. 4, Binnie won his astronaut's wings by flying SpaceShipOne — with its stick-and-rudder control system — to an altitude of 70 miles, breaking the long-standing 67-mile record held by the military's X-15 rocket aircraft.

Binnie's flight into space also secured the $10 million Ansari X Prize, an international competition established by a nonprofit foundation to encourage private development of commercial space travel.

In addition to describing his adventure during the appearance at Virginia Tech, Binnie will host the first public presentation of the Discovery Channel's video documentary of the SpaceShipOne flight.

Binnie's appearance is sponsored by Performance Associates Inc., a firm owned by Pat Artis, a graduate of Virginia Tech's Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM), and his wife, Nancy. The event is hosted by the College of Engineering and the ESM department.

Before entering the world of private space flight design and testing in 2000, Binnie served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy aviator, including combat missions during the Gulf War. As a fighter pilot and test pilot, he has logged more than 4,600 hours of flight time aboard 63 different aircraft. He retired from the Navy with the rank of commander.

Binnie earned his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering and master's degree in fluid mechanics and thermodynamics from Brown University and a second master's in aeronautical engineering from Princeton University. He also is a graduate of the U.S. Navy's Test Pilot School and the Naval Aviation Safety School.

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