I’ve been both a rocket nut and an airplane nut from the earliest age I can remember. It comes from growing up in the Southern New Mexico desert, with so much of America’s aerospace history and development going on everywhere you look. Seems like half of my friends’ dads worked at White Sands Missile Range, including many on the test track itself. I worked all through high school at the International Space Hall of Fame (now called the New Mexico Museum of Space History). I’ve had the honor of meeting a very large percentage of the astronauts in person (all the way up to the early Space Shuttle astronauts), as well as physicists, scientists, engineers, and pilots who have made aerospace what it is today. I was lucky enough to have Clyde Tombaugh and Dr. John Paul Stapp as personal friends while in high school (the discoverer of the planet Pluto, and the “Fastest Man on Earth”, respectively). Ernst Steinfhoff‘s son was my high school shop teacher. I even got to watch the Shuttle land at White Sands Missile Range (my parents let me skip school to watch). In my adult life, I’ve come to be a huge admirer of Burt Rutan, who has single-handedly designed more aircraft than many well-known airplane manufacturers. I watched SpaceShipOne with tremendous excitement, and was able to meet Burt Rutan in person in June, 2005.
So I’m very sad to see today’s news of the crash of SpaceShipTwo, along with the death of one of the pilots. This, on top of the destruction of the Antares rocket just a few days ago. I’m a huge believer in the privatization of the space program, and these two incidents, particularly happening so close together, will not do that cause a lot of good.