"Let me know when Rutan gets a man on the moon and returns him safely to the Earth. Then we'll have something worth talking about."
First, let me say that I've always stood in awe with what NASA has pulled off. The achievements boogle the mind if you get into the nuts and bolts. I was trying to focus some attention where it was lacking. Toward Rutan. Sure NASA has sent all kind of manned craft up and back again. Most, if not all, has had to have heat tile to survive reentry. Rutan's brilliant design got a three man payload up and back without the big burn in. His feathering mechanism not only kept the reentry temps down, it made the return self righting. At that point the pilot doesn't even have to touch the controls. Just that little detail is a pure, beautiful (and cost effective) thing. NASA has it's giants, but I'd put Rutan up against any one of them.
Burt Rutan was able to use the data from the billions of dollars spend by the NACA, NASA, USAF, and private contractors over more than 50 years to achieve what he did. I am certainly not dissing Rutan. NASA cheered him on like everyone else did. However a suborbital up and down is not the same as achieving orbit with a payload capability that the Shuttle has.
myheroesareDeadandRegistered - "and no heat tiles for the return."
The Delta-V required for orbit is quite different for a suborbital up and down. Rutan's ship was not designed to withstand an atmospheric entry from orbit.