The gathering Tuesday in Seattle featured two big shots in the dawning era of aerospace travel: billionaire Paul Allen and spacecraft designer Burt Rutan, who now hails from Coeur d’Alene.
Rutan, the renowned engineer who built the first commercially successful spacecraft, was at the side of the Microsoft co-founder to launch their joint space venture, Stratolaunch Systems.
Rutan retired in April from his company Scaled Composites. He and his wife, Tonya, moved to Coeur d’Alene and say they plan to stay.
In an email, Rutan wrote that he’ll serve as a Stratolaunch board member and adviser.
He and Allen last teamed up in 2004 when Allen funded the design and launch of SpaceShipOne, which won a $10 million prize for being the first privately built, privately funded manned craft to reach space.
Rutan’s earlier accomplishments included developing the narrow-winged Voyager aircraft, which became in 1986 the first plane to fly around the world nonstop without refueling.
The couple lived in Mojave, Calif., for more than 25 years, where Scaled Composites is based.
As he prepared to retire, the Rutans drove across the West to look at potential new homes.
When they returned to Mojave, they realized Coeur d’Alene was the city that made the biggest impression on them.
“It’s a charming city. And to us, it’s not small. It’s a big city to us, because we’re from a town of 3,000 people,” Tonya Rutan said.