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In May 2002, after two years of planning, with Gregg Maryniak running mission control from St. Louis, Lindbergh flew a custom carbon fiber, single-engine plane from New York to Paris in just over 17 hours. The flight was a sensation, garnering headlines around the world and raising $1 million for the X Prize Foundation.
Maryniak described Lindbergh’s flight as “one of the unsung hero stories of X Prize.” The organization regained sound financial footing and in 2004, SpaceShipOne roared into space to take the prize, ushering in a new era of human spaceflight. SpaceShipOne now hangs wingtip to wingtip with the Spirit of St. Louis in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and commercial spaceflight is an over $300 billion industry, with dozens of companies competing to launch humans and cargo into space.
In addition to serving on the board of the X Prize Foundation (now offering over $140 million worth of prizes for goals such as cleaning carbon from the air and saving the coral reefs), Lindbergh is the executive chairman of VerdeGo Aero, a company working to create a new generation of quiet, environmentally friendly hybrid-electric aircraft, which he envisions someday shuttling passengers from Bainbridge to Bellevue in under 10 minutes. He is also board chairman of the Lindbergh Foundation, a 43-year-old nonprofit founded by astronaut Neil Armstrong and aviation pioneer Jimmy Doolittle to carry on Charles and Anne Lindbergh’s vision of balancing advancing technology with preservation of the environment. For the 100th anniversary of his grandfather’s transatlantic flight in 2027, Lindbergh is mulling a repeat flight across the Atlantic, this time perhaps in a zero-carbon plane, the challenge being that no such plane yet exists.
These days, Erik Lindbergh wakes up every day, gets his joints “into loose formation” and takes care of the Bainbridge Island farm he shares with his wife, fitness guru Lyn Lindbergh. They are in their second year of collaboration on “The Lindberghs” podcast, which explores second chances, a topic with which he is intimately familiar.
When time permits, he continues to create wooden sculptures (or “making sawdust,” as he describes it) and periodically powers through the backcountry with a happily aging group of like-minded adventurers who call themselves “Old Guys Rockin.”
Despite playing an instrumental role in launching private citizens into space, Lindbergh is in no hurry to join them. “Early on,” he said, “I was motivated by the idea that I might be able to move more freely in space without the weight of gravity on my joints. Now I’m having a pretty good time here on earth and I think gravity is my friend. I’m in no rush. You know, life on earth is amazing.”
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