August 1st, 2011
Today the Space Needle announced a Space Race 2012 competition with the grand prize to win a sub orbital space flight with a company called Space Adventures (valued at $110,000 USD)! The contest is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Space Needle in April 2012. I of course immediately entered (you have to be a US resident to enter). There was an added bonus to this announcement though….
At 10am the press conference to announce the competition was held with 2 special guest speakers:
Buzz Aldrin – former USAF pilot (66 missions flying an F-86 Sabre in the Korean War, shot down 2 Mig-15’s, was awarded a Distinguished Fly Cross and served in Europe during the cold war), Astronaut (as of 1963 – pilot on Gemini XII the last mission of that program), lunar module pilot on Apollo XI and the second man to step on the moon (after mission commander Neil Armstrong) on July 20th, 1969 (I have an original front page of Melbourne’s Herald newspaper of this event). Basically a genuine goddamn American hero!
Richard Garriott – a video games developer (he created the famous series of Ultima role-playing games) and entrepreneur who also became the first second generation American astronaut (his dad was an astronaut on the Skylab space station and the Space Shuttle) in 2008, when he paid $35 Million USD (!) to train with the Russian Cosmonauts and be sent into space on a Soyuz rocket and spend about 10 days on the International Space Station. He has an interesting video discussing space flight on his website.
I raced up there and pretty much “gate crashed” the press conference (stood right near the side of the stage)! I got to listen to Buzz speak of his thoughts on space travel (past, present and future) and his recollections of landing on the moon. For an aviation and space travel nerd such as myself this was awesome!
Eric Anderson the CEO of Space Adventures then discussed the company and the prize (you will go in their rocket to the outer edge of the atmosphere – blue of earth below, black of space above – this will apparently be higher than such flights with Virgin Galactic and other companies). He also mentioned that within 10 years time they plan to have a trip where you will do an orbit around the moon! So much has happened in our lifetime to date, I cannot wait to see what the future brings (if I don’t win this prize, I am sure one day it will be affordable to do a space flight)!
Richard Garriott then spoke of his experiences which was very interesting, he couldn’t follow his Dad’s footsteps with NASA due to poor eyesight, but things turned out ok! He is also an investor in Space Adventures, hence his appearance today.
One of the minders for the various speakers said there may be a chance to meet Buzz after the press had done their interviews. I waited around for this opportunity, but alas it was not to be. He has had some run in’s with moon landing deniers and conspiracy theorists that have made him wary of interaction with the public, including a famous incident with idiotic filmmaker Bart Sibrel in 2009 when Buzz punched him in the face, this guy basically stalked him saying a bunch of crap before the final punch, here is the video! GO BUZZ! He is now 81 years old by the way!
Buzz did give myself and a few staff from the nearby Seattle Science Centre a wave and a smile though and I did get to meet Richard Garriott which was pretty cool and got some good photos of Buzz. So once again the small minority of loonies and freaks cost the majority a once in a lifetime experience (our cause was not helped by this huge long haired guy that demanded to meet Buzz and give him a postcard! Once he arrived I knew we were doomed).
Mankind HAS sent space probes to the outer planets and beyond, rovers to Mars, and man to the Moon (6 times) – get over it! Why is this so hard for some people to believe? Go to the Kennedy Space Centre and all will unfold!
So in the past few days I have sat in Howard Hughes’s pilot’s seat in the “Spruce Goose“, met an astronaut, been waved to by Buzz Aldrin and also waved to by comedian and TV personality Drew Carey (he was Grand Marshal of the Seafair Torchlight Parade last saturday night, his car in the parade stopped right in front of me and he wouldn’t stop waving at me until I waved back, pretty funny)!
Interesting times…I love the Pacific North West!