Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mojave Air & Space Port


Gateway to space! That's what the sign says when you enter Mojave, California. And why not? Good a place as any for the Mojave Air & Space Port -- also sometimes known as the "Civilian Aerospace Test Center". Following the social events at NASA Dryden this past week, a few of us stragglers had a mini #SpaceGirlTweetup on our way home!

We wound up realizing we should do this more often.

Annie Wynn and Camilla SDO
Mojave Air & Space Port

MHV, formerly a WWII Marine air station, is now the up-n-comin' Space Oasis! Or at least, that is what we're all hoping as space start-ups congregate to test vehicles and develop new technologies. It is the first facility to be licensed in the United States for horizontal launches of reusable spacecraft, being certified as a spaceport by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2004.

Later that same year, the first private spacecraft, named SpaceShipOne, was launched by Virgin Galactic. SpaceShipTwo, which will host tourist trips to the "62-mile-high" club, is currently being developed. Other space port inhabitants include Stratolaunch, Interorbital System, Orbital Sciences, Masten Space Systems, XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, and Firestar Technologies.

Rotary Rocket
The ROTON - Rotary Rocket

The port has a long history of military service, test programs and world records; perhaps not as importantly, but still rather novel: it has been a filming site for 18 television shows and 16 movies, including the Hey Let's See Keanu Reeves Blow Up a Huge Plane scene in Speed (1994).

Since 1981, the site has also housed the civilian National Test Pilot School (NTPS), and since 1994, the affiliated National Flight Test Institute.

Test Pilot School
Sign me up!

For tourists interested in visiting, one of the very new features of the port is "Legacy Park", a lovely mirage covered with lawns and wild flowers -- quite the odd site in the desert!

Created on behalf of all the Mojave workers who have contributed to the site, the lovely park houses memorials to fallen test pilots, a composite of the SpaceShipOne craft, the flown ROTOR rocket and a mockup of the Rutan Model 76 Voyager -- the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping or refueling.

Voyager Restaurant
Julie, Heather, Camilla, Jane & Annie

Another fun "don't miss" item is the aviation-themed diner with many dishes named after aircrafts and pilots! Voyager Restaurant overlooks the runways, where we ate lunch while watching planes taking off and landing.

Besides being right on top of the flightline, your dining experience includes great food, local aeronautics newspapers and periodicals, Tower Radio at each table, and free wifi. Okay, it was no NASA Social, but not a bad show!