X Prize: The Launch

We got up at 3:30 a.m., had some motel-room coffee, then drove from Tehachapi to Mojave and got there about 4:30 or so. Plenty of time to hike around the runway area, see how many people had shown up overnight (not an overwhelming number) and get ready for the big event. I won’t get into all that now, other than to say how remarkable it is to watch someone roll by on a runway a 7 in the morning and watch them glide back to Earth from space at 8:30. One guy I’ve been talking to at Mojave Airport — Stuart Witt, the facility’s general manager and a former Top Gun pilot who has done test flights, too — said a couple of times over the last few weeks, “Everybody’s assuming this is a done deal. It’s not. It’s risky business.” Knowing that, it’s moving to look up into the sky and see this little glider coming back intact and to hear the pilot radio in how beautifully the craft is handling.

So that’s that, for now. Except to offer a couple pictures that Garth shot during the event (used with his permission).

I drove back from Mojave in one butt-numbing shot (it’s 340 miles; and while I don’t find Interstate 5 horrible and ugly the way many do, it’s not really a fun drive). I’ll head back down for the second prize launch, which still looks like it will happen early next week.

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