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The need for speed hits outer space

From racing chariots to racing cars to racing rockets?  The need for speed has just taken one step closer to going supersonic. "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann tells you about the birth of the Rocket Racing League.
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From racing chariots to racing cars to racing rockets?  The need for speed has just taken one step closer to going supersonic with the birth of the Rocket Racing League. 

Enthusiasts will get a preview in New Mexico this weekend when pilot Colonel Rick Searfoss, who once captained the space shuttle Columbia, will test out an EZ-Rocket, the precursor of the racing rocket, then eventually a league with 10 rocket ships.

The Rocket Race League is being pioneered by the same group that dreamed up the X Prize, the $10 million reward for the first private spaceship, which was won by SpaceShipOne last year. 

Dr. Peter Diamandis, co-founder of the new Rocket Racing League, joined Keith Olbermann on Thursday's 'Countdown' to discuss the new league. 

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN”:  When do you hope to be up and racing? 

PETER DIAMANDIS, PRESIDENT, X PRIZE FOUNDATION:  Well, we’re actually constructing the first four of these X-Racers, we call them, right now.  And we will be racing them next summer in time for next year’s X Prize Cup here in New Mexico.  We will be debuting the first prototype this coming Sunday at the countdown in the X Prize Cup. 

OLBERMANN:  If you have to race around in the sky, how do you make money off of it?  NASCAR started literally on the sands of Daytona Beach.  And people just sort of stood there and watched.  And there was no profit margin. 

I mean, right now, is it not a little bit like the old joke about the guy who was charging people in Waukegan, Illinois, to watch the Chicago Fire? 

DIAMANDIS:  Actually, no, it’s not. 

We have got a tremendous business here.  We are developing, frankly, a whole video game that goes with it, so that people at home, on their PlayStation or Xbox, can literally race in real time against the X-Racers in the air.  We have sponsors that have already started approaching us, the television side. 

This is all about speed and 21st century technology, really going beyond what NASCAR and Formula One are doing right now.  And these vehicles, with a 20-foot flame, are taking off in front of you, doing vertical climbs into the air.  And it is a spectacular sight.  And you feel it in your chest.  It is a lot of fun.  It is a lot of excitement. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you worry regarding safety?  I mean, you’ve got 300-mile-an-hour rockets around the desert in the air, spectators to watch.  At this point, still, with auto racing, things fly into the stands and hurt people almost on a regular basis.  How would you be protecting the pilots and the fan? 

DIAMANDIS:  Absolutely.  Safety is fundamental. 

In fact, when we announced the Rocket Racing League in New York this past Monday, Patricia Smith, the associate administrator of the FAA, was there with us.  We’re working with the FAA. 

When the pilots are flying on this, they’re going to have a heads-up display that shows them their own lane that they’re flying in.  They’re flying in their own virtual race course, if you would.  And the people at home watching on television or on the Internet are going to see, literally, a goal post, if you would, that they’re going to be flying through.  So, they’re going to see when they have to hit those marks. 

And it is going to be a race, a three-dimensional race in the skies just in front of you.