Burt Rutan

VirginGalactic.com / Mark Greenberg

Burt Rutan

Not all influential designers are of this world. American aerospace engineer Rutan, 66, founded the Rutan Aircraft Factory in 1974 to design light, do-it-yourself aircraft that could be built at home. More recently, Rutan's Mojave (Calif.) aerospace development company, Scaled Composites, formed a venture with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic organization to build the world's first fleet of commercial spaceships. In 2004, Rutan debuted SpaceShipOne, the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice in 14 days.