Tuesday, July 10, 2007
When I told an associate at work that I was going to a convention organized to observe the centennial of a science-fiction writer, my associate asked me if it would be one of those sorts of events where people dress up in wild costumes. I told him that for a Heinlein convention not so much but, in that spirit, here is a photo I took of Jeff Greason dressed up as a rocket scientist. Jeff is the founder and president of Xcor Aerospace -- a small company that designs and and builds rocket motors, rocket-powered aircraft and miscellaneous spacecraft parts.
There were a number of movers and shakers in private space-related companies at the Heinlein Centennial (the pilot of Spaceship One was there) and they all had more or less the same message: Private space-related business is in the process of turning a corner. We are starting to see more-reliable, less expensive, commoditized technologies that are moving the aerospace business from the hyper-expensive realms where only governments and the super-rich can participate to the next level down where the merely-rich can have a role.
engine test photo "borrowed" from xcor.com web site
Jeff was there, in part because Heinlein fans have an abiding interest in the progress of space-related technology, and in larger part because Jeff is, himself, a fan. He showed us a video of the test firing of the engine pictured above. It was uber-cool and was very well received by the audience. Also well received was his story of how he came to understand that he wanted to be an engineer while reading one of Heinlein's juvenile science-fiction novels while hiding in the school's janitors closet in fourth grade. I am not sure I remember which book he mentioned. It might have been Have Spacesuit Will Travel which is a good one for such things.