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Sun, Oct 12, 2008

Gone West: SpaceDev Founder Jim Benson

Computer Genius And Rocket Motor Developer Leaves Indelible Mark

SpaceDev, Inc. has announced that SpaceDev Founder and Board Member James Benson, 63, died peacefully in his home Friday.

Benson was diagnosed in 2007 with a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor, the cause of his death early on the morning of October 10. He had resigned from an operational role in SpaceDev in September 2006. Benson retained a seat on the Board of Directors of SpaceDev where he had continued to support the Company that he founded in 1997.

"Jim was a true visionary," said Mark Sirangelo, SpaceDev's CEO and Chairman of the Board. "He saw that space exploration could be more effective if done commercially, and formed SpaceDev to make that dream become a reality. He will be missed by many but his legacy contained in SpaceDev will continue to forward his vision for the commercialization of space. On behalf of the employees, board and shareholders of SpaceDev we would like to express our condolences to the Benson family."

Prior to founding SpaceDev, Benson spent thirty years associated with the computer field, spanning the era from the introduction of modern mainframe computers, to the dominance of the computer industry by microcomputers. Benson invented modern full text computer indexing and searching in 1984, and exploited the new field through companies he founded, Compusearch and ImageFast of McLean, VA.

After his successful career as a computer industry entrepreneur, Benson decided to take on the challenge of starting an innovative space commercialization venture because it combined his lifelong interests in science, technology and astronomy with his successful business experience. SpaceDev was the result.

As ANN previously reported, Benson was passionate about the development of the commercialization of space travel. "Through safe and lower cost solutions produced by fast moving, entrepreneurial companies like SpaceDev," Benson said in December 2004, "we could be delivering cargo and people to space in our lifetime.

"The new enthusiasm from the public is already leading to a rebirth of the space industry, with a new generation of 'space cadets' -- those students enrolling in the burgeoning university programs for astronautical -- rather than aeronautical --engineering programs, spearheading a 'next-generation' of space industry careers and experts," he continued. "I am happy and proud to be part of this new wave of economic activity and a new start on the human exploration and development of the Infinite Frontier! This is truly revolutionary."

In addition to his roles in SpaceDev and Benson Space, Benson had been a member of the Board of Directors of the California Space Authority. He founded the non-profit Space Development Institute, and introduced the Benson Prize for Amateur Discovery of Near Earth Objects.

Benson received a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the University of Missouri in Kansas City, his home town. He is survived by his wife Susan, 3 children and 4 grandchildren. The family is planning a memorial service later in the year.

FMI: www.spacedev.com

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