Monday Morning Inspiration


Each year, I look forward to my trip to Oshkosh, not the least because I look forward to being inspired. See Oshkosh: An Inspiration.

Since 2002, when I first made it to Airventure, I looked forward to my trips to Oshkosh as an inspiration, to rejuvenate my spirits, to take a day or two or a week off, so I could handle the rest of the year.

osh15The last couple of years my trips to Oshkosh were exhilarating, not the least because I flew in, but sadly Rutan’s absence was deeply felt.

On Friday, February 19th, 2015,  EAA announced the return  of Burt Rutan to Airventure 2015 for the 40th anniversary of the VariEze. Lookout for a flyin of Rutan designs!

2015 promises to be a year to look forward to…See you at Airventure 2015!

Space: The Final Frontier


These are the voyages of the Space ship Enterprise
It’s 5 year mission to explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no man has gone before

Who can forget the voice of Captain James T. Kirk as the opening credits rolled, and the Star ship Enterprise and it’s crew embarked on another remarkable journey to explore strange new worlds at the edge of the Universe at Warp speed? There was Captain Kirk assisted ably by  Spock, Bones, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov. All with wit, and ingenuity racing boldly where no man has gone before.

The Star Trek Television series offered a whole new world of space adventure. The first trials of human space travel successfully behind and the race to space in full focus between the two giant forces of the western world: Soviet and US; Star Trek provided the vicarious enjoyment for all of us who longed to reach the stars. Since the beginning of time mankind has looked skyward and yearned. In the words of Carl Sagan:   “But I guess I’d say if it is just us… seems like an awful waste of space.” (quoted from the book movie Contact based on a book by Carl Sagan)

The launch of the Dragon spacecraft by SpaceX marks an extraordinary milestone and advances the next generation of space travel by leaps and bounds! After decades of monopoly by NASA, it is finally time for the commercial world to finally address the whole idea of space travel. It opens up immense possibilities for the rapid advancement and healthy competition for the common man to address, solve and simplify the solution for cheap, efficient and easy access to space. The success of the Dragon spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station clearly demonstrates that it is achievable.

Burt Rutan (Scaled Composites)  and Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) in the last few years have test flown and irrevocably demonstrated that with a little support, some private funding, enthusiasm and drive, space is reachable; three times over to win the XPrize in 2004. With SpaceShipTwo poised to facilitate commercial space tourism we are one step closer to achieving this dream.

Kudos to Elon Musk and all the people at SpaceX for a job well done! For reliving the dream, giving hope, opening the window of immense possibilities and thrusting us forward into that next generation of commercial space flight.

See Also:
Discovery
Atlantis: Final Flight 
I Touched SpaceShineOne!!!
SpaceShipOne and I
SpaceShip One Government Zero
Lost in Space

Spaceship One, Government Zero


A public viewing of the SpaceShipOne? 

Wow!

First, there was Kitty Hawk.
Then, Cape Canaveral.
Now, Mojave.

Kitty Hawk happened in a previous lifetime. I always wanted to visit Florida and watch a Shuttle launch, but haven’t been able to as yet. If history was going to be made right here in the California Dessert, I wanted to be there to see it happen. The launch was scheduled for June 21st at 6:30 am and the public would be allowed inside the airport starting at 3:00am

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Arriving there at 3:00 am, it was comforting to see that there were people like me out there for whom this was a momentous occasion. The public viewing area was right across from the departure end of runway 30, giving a fairly decent view of not only the take-off but also the landing of SpaceShipOne.

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Figure 1: WhiteKnight and SpaceShipOne: Taxing for take-off

As the sun arose over the dessert, rendering a reddish hue to the eastern sky, the winds which previously were gusting to 25 knots began to die down. Soon the reddish hue was replaced by bright yellow sunlight. It was going to be nice, warm, clear day with unlimited visibility (or should I say extremely hot first day of summer). Picture perfect weather to suit the very special occasion. Right on schedule, the majestic WhiteKnight with SpaceShipOne piggy-backed on its belly taxied past us, preceded by the three chase aircraft. All of us watched with bated breath and suppressed excitement. The time had finally arrived. As the jubilant crowds of 20 to 30 thousand people who had gathered there watched, White Knight was soon on the rollout ready for lift-off um.. I mean take-off to usher in a new era in the history of private manned space flight.

The estimated time to climb to the design altitude of 50000 ft when separation of SpaceShipOne from the launch vehicle was expected to occur was an hour. Everyone watched with their necks craning, trying to keep the rising spacecraft in view. The spacecraft and launch vehicle were easily visible with the naked eye for most of their ascent and separation phases. After that SpaceShipOne was on its own. With its rocket’s fired, off it went to catch a glimpse of the world from beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Though it was estimated that a total of three minutes would be spent in weightlessness, the ultimate time spent was barely a minute. Due to unscheduled problems it was decided to cut-short the flight and return it safely back to earth. Despite that, the mission achieved its goal of sending a pilot into space and experiencing weightlessness.

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Figure 2: Touchdown: There and back again – A Tale of WhiteKnight & SpaceShipOne

Under the skillful guidance of the first private astronaut Mike Melvill, SpaceShipOne made it’s re-entry with a steep descent and finally a smooth landing. There was widespread cheering by the crowd. The chase aircraft too had ample occasion to celebrate the highly successfully mission and not to be outdone performed a formation flyby. When later asked about the flight, Melvill aptly described it as “touching the face of god”.

With the test flight complete, SpaceShipOne was rolled out for display towed by a truck before the cheering crowd and media that had graced the occasion. It was time to honor the men who made it all happen. It is moments such as these that touch our inner soul and inspire us to do great things.

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Figure 3: SpaceShipOne, GovernmentZero: A triumphant Melville after the flight

If you are curious about the title of the article, Burt Rutan is famous for his open dissension of NASA policies. The whole venture by Rutan seeking the XPrize is wholly private, funded solely by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. Incidentally, Rutan was given the banner by a spectator during the victory roll. He ran across to accept it and triumphantly had Melvill wave it from atop SpaceShipOne.

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Now that it is over, I can truthfully say if not I, at least my fingerprints have been in space and back (unless, of course, SpaceShipOne has been washed clean since that fateful day in October).

To learn more about SpaceShipOne visit http://www.scaled.com
To read about how my fingerprints got onto SpaceShipOne follow this link.

June 2004.

Note: Article appeared in the September/October issue of International Women Pilots, the magazine of the Ninety Nines.