Sunday, November 3, 2013

Space Port

Recently some friends and I journeyed to the town of Tahachapi for the annual Apple Festival. Tahachapi is famous for the train loop, Alpacas, and its apples.  No pictures of the apple festival but on the way home we decided to stop in the town of Mojave to take a look at the airport.  We were hoping to be able to view some of the many derelict airlines stored there waiting to be scrapped or returned to service but alas we could not.  They are actually better viewed from the highway than from the airport grounds.  Security is pretty tight at the Mojave airport because a government contractor is based there; their task is turning old fighter aircraft into remote controlled target drones to be blown out of the sky by our top guns.  There is also a civilian test pilot academy located there along with some other unfathomable operations. 

Wait a minute....did I write airport instead of space port?  Because it is indeed a space port!  It is the home of Burt Rutan and his SpaceShpOne and SpaceShipTwo, the first successful manned commercially operated space craft!  SpaceShipTwo is undergoing tests at Mojave and will someday be blasting into space with paying passengers from this space port.   When I was a kid I read (and still do) Robert Heinlein science fiction novels.  In Farmer in the Sky the colonists leaving for a terraformed Ganymede depart from the space port at Mojave.   Now there is one at Mojave.  How double cool is that!

So we drove around the closed airport and were eventually stopped by a very nice but firm security guard who said that we really weren't supposed to be there unless we had business at the place so we left but not after taking these photos.

On display when you enter the grounds is the one and only Rotary Rocket!   This thing actually flew but not very high.  An interesting concept but lack of captial probably doomed the project before it really got going.

Here is some information on the Rotary Rocket:

A staple of the science fiction stories and movies of the 50s was the guys who build a manned rocket and head to space.  After the second world war anything seemed possible!  At last it seems that fact is catching up with fiction.

A memorial to the Rotary Rocket "Roton"  Love the name!  It reads like a Japanese monster from a cheesy movie.
The Grouch and Roton

Two people actually flew it from there!  I don't think there was a quick way out if something went wrong.  The crew had to be very, very brave to fly this.

The Roton's hanger, still in place 14 years later
What's this?  An actual space craft hanger!  Home of SpaceShipTwo and its mother ship

Bits and pieces of airplanes are stored all over the space port.  This looks to be a South African built trainer and ground attack aircraft.

My clue to its origins is the Afrikaans instructions on the side.  I am so glad the U.S. is not an official two-language country like Canada and South Africa.  Having everything written in two languages has to be a pain in the butt.  Wait a minute...the U.S.  government prints documents in six languages!   I guess we win...

Same type of plane but all in one piece

I think this is is a Swedish Draken fighter which seems to be missing some parts also

A nice comparison between high tech and low:  An AN-2 biplane produced behind the iron curtain.  The largest single engine biplane made.  Those commies always had to have the biggest!  This is a fascinating plane; it can fly backwards in a headwind and it essentially has no stall speed.  Read more about it here:

So that was my trip to the Mojave space port, a very interesting place to visit!   After this we went to Bob's Army Surplus in Mojave which is almost like entering a hoarder's home as it is filled with stuff from every era and military force from around the world.  Sitting outside are some derelict military vehicles and one movie prop:  a futuristic helicopter from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Sixth Day.  The prop appears to be made from fiberglass and the elements haven't been kind to it but if you loved the movie, you can see an actual piece from it right outside Bob's!

The prop on display is the one on the right

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