victory roll at the top of the climb is important for an airshow pilot!"
- Mike Melville
I drove up to Mojave from the LA Basin pretty late Tuesday night, since I had to teach my evening MBA class. As it happened one of my students had given a presentation on cultural differences in business. Born in Kenya himself, his perspective was that Americans are different from the rest of the world since from the time we are children we are given lots of choices - so we think all options are possible. As I rolled over the moonlight-bathed Antelope Valley buffeting around in the wind, I thought about how right he was. Just last Saturday I had helped out Beyond-Earth at their launches in Frederick, Oklahoma, so I was in the unique position of going to two "new space" launches at two launch sites in the span of less than a week - with any luck, a sampling of the overload of choices to come!
This time it was cold in the predawn - cold enough to want a polypro jacket and to make it worth it to seek out coffee, fortunately not a difficult proposition even at 4 AM on a Wednesday in the fast-food and gas-station heaven of Mojave.
There were a lot of kids out this time, mostly sleepy rolls of blankets
on the hardpacked desert dirt that started to stir as the sky got a bit
pink. I struck up a conversation with 11-year-old Barbara whose mother,
father and grandfather had all worked in aerospace. We chatted about how
cool it would be to have Spaceship One stencils on wallpaper - probably
exactly what I would want in my room if I was eleven these days! (Hmmm...
maybe the next time we repaint my home office...)
No trip to Mojave to see the launch would be complete without the need to come up with novel ways to block out the sun to see the rocket burn. Our first indication that something was a little interesting up there was the contrail, which initially I thought was reflecting really strange winds aloft but was of course tracing out the rolls of the vehicle. The wait for the vehicle to come down got pretty long after we had heard what had happened.
Mojave itself has not changed much superficially from all this international attention. The turn into the Press and Preferred Parking entrance on Belshaw still has its venerable motel landmark. But under the surface, perhaps exemplified by the high energy of the good folks of the rocketboosters.org association of local civic groups selling SpaceShipOne merchandise, one feels energy and a palpable upswing. Soon, along with the town of Mojave, maybe all of aerospace will be lifted out of the desert by the those skinny pairs of wings!