Unlike his famous grandfather, who jockeyed the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic and into history in 1927, Erik Lindbergh is painfully earthbound. Rheumatoid arthritis, diagnosed when he was 21, forced him to quit flying Cessna charters for a living in 1994. His knee cartilage has been replaced by plastic filling, and he has to take anti-inflammatory drugs every day. "I'm okay," he jokes, "as long as I don't have to move." Yet Lindbergh, 34, offspring of John, Charles Lindbergh's oldest surviving son, still has a dream of flight—and it's a big one. Along with a team of former astronauts, aviation enthusiasts and business executives, Lindbergh, who owns a woodworking business on Bainbridge Island in Washington's Puget Sound—where he lives with his wife, Mara, a massage therapist—crisscrosses the country raising funds for the X Prize. That's a cool $10 million to be awarded to the first team to launch at least three people into a suborbital altitude of 100 kilometers (62.4 miles) twice within two weeks—a huge step toward making commercial space flight a commonplace event.
The goal of the X Prize's supporters, who include author Tom Clancy and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, is to energize civilian space flight in the same way that Charles Lindbergh's epochal journey jump-started the aviation industry. Says Lindbergh, noting that 17 teams already have their eyes on his prize: "I will be disappointed if I am not in Space in 10 years."
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