Oshkosh Takes a Shot on SpaceJohn Morris
“If you can't get inspired about wanting to go to space I'm not sure that you should be in the aviation field,” says Jack Pelton, chairman and CEO of the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA). What could be more inspiring at this year’s AirVenture than Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin reusable rocket and crew capsule (the empty, five-times-to-space launcher dominates Boeing Plaza), and Friday evening’s formal reunion of eight lunar mission Apollo astronauts, some 50 years after the tragic launch accident to Apollo 1 at the very beginning of the program.
“We started inspiring people to build their own airplanes and fly them,” says Pelton. “We are trying to inspire people to get into any form of aviation, and space is just another one of those areas we are highlighting. We've been going forward with more and more commercial space from an innovation standpoint, and another big focus of ours is innovation.”NASA has long been an exhibitor at EAA AirVenture with its own pavilion, featuring space and exploration as well as innovation in aerospace. And in 2009 Sir Richard Branson brought the White Knight Two launch vehicle to Oshkosh.
A full-scale replica of the SpaceShipOne rocket craft that it carries is on display in the EAA Museum. Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, a pioneer of innovative aircraft and spacecraft founded by EAA icon Burt Rutan, has a strong presence at Oshkosh this year. It designed and built the WhiteKnight and SpaceShipOne, as well as the massive Stratolaunch aircraft that was rolled out of its hangar for the first time on May 31. Returning to Oshkosh this year after first visiting in 1999 is its high-altitude Proteus aircraft, envisaged as an economic pseudo-satellite.