Twenty-five grand and the promise of glory lured Lindbergh across the Atlantic 75 years ago. Today, the X Prize offers $10 million to anyone who can jump-start space tourism. Meet some contenders—and the visionary behind this dangerous contest.
Since the prize was announced in 1996, it has drawn two dozen entrants, including aviation genius Burt Rutan, missile pioneer Bob Truax, assorted amateur rocketeers and the lunatic fringe. 32-year-old John Carmack still works his day job at id Software, the company he co-founded in 1991. But with X Prize competition heating up, he has been devoting more of his time and money to Armadillo. He expects to sink $1 million into the project, but, hey, who’s counting? He’s worth more than $10 million. “Because of [the race to win] the X Prize, I’ve said yes to a lot that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” he says. “But I spent $700,000 on a Ferrari F50, so this doesn’t seem so bad.”