First private manned space launch - Mojave, CA, June 21, 2004


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Lunch stop along the I-10
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Me at the wheel. We had a 7-passenger minivan for the four people going on the
trip - myself, Alexi, Celinda, and Danielle.
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Celinda
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Danielle looking comfortable
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The original plan was to camp out at Mojave Airport the night before the launch.
However, when we arrived we found ourselves in the middle of a severe sandstorm
with 60-70 knot winds. This picture gives some idea of the conditions outside. The
  size of particles carried by the wind ranged from fine dust, which stuck to everything,   
to millimeter-sized sand grains, which hurt when they hit your face at 70 knots.
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Given the severe weather conditions outside, we decided to forego camping and
sleep in the van. Celinda and Danielle are making room in the back for sleeping.
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The wind was so powerful it toppled all port-o-potties except one.
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Another angle of the downed port-o-potties. It was quite a mess inside; I sure hope
no one was using them when they fell.
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Despite the miserable weather situation we trudged over to an all-night party thrown
by National Space Society. We had to walk with our eyes mostly closed in a vain
attempt to avoid the airborne dust.
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Alexi, Celinda, and Danielle at the party, where they were promptly hit on. We didnít
stick around for very long.
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With the rollout scheduled for 6:30 AM, we had to wake up at 5 AM, shortly before
sunrise. My tent was used for van seat storage, not sleeping.
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Danielle brushing her teeth.
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A long line of cars waiting to get into the public parking area.
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We walked along a taxiway to the public viewing area. Military-looking airport
security was plentiful.
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Celinda, Alexi, and Danielle in the public viewing area.
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Celinda, Alexi, and myself at the same location.
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Part of the public viewing area, looking west.
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Movie clip with an overview of the public viewing area.
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Another crowd shot. Itís estimated that over 10,000 people attended the launch.
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Some people positioned themselves on a low hill in the public viewing area.
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A video clip of me walking through the crowd.
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The White Knight carrier aircraft, with SpaceShipOne below it, is taxiing out.
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White Knight / SpaceShipOne getting closer to the excited crowd.
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Another shot of White Knight / SpaceShipOne.
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White Knight / SpaceShipOne taxiing past the crowd. Mike Melvill stuck his hand
out one of smaller windows on SpaceShipOne and waved at the crowd.
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A Beech Starship, one of the chase planes, is taxiing for takeoff past the crowd.
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The Beech Starship airborne and gaining altitude. Its silhouette reminds me of a
Klingon Bird of Prey.
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The White Knight takes off with SpaceShipOne.
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White Knight and SpaceShipOne are airborne!
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White Knight / SpaceShipOne is gaining altitude, with the Beech Starship behind it.
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Celinda looking at the ascending aircraft through binoculars, which were a big help...
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...because eventually the planes became barely distinguishable points of light.
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Alexi petting Polly, a ďvery licky dog.Ē
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Myself, looking serious.
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After the White Knight / SpaceShipOne reached the target altitude (around 46,000
ft), things happened very quickly. SpaceShipOne was released and ignited its rocket
engine almost immediately. Here, SpaceShipOne is seen streaking across the sky on
its way to space.
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A video clip of spectators trying to spot SpaceShipOne after it shut off its rocket engine.
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People still trying to spot SpaceShipOne coming back. Around this point we also got
word that it made it to space - barely.
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Alexi relieved that the launch was a success. Behind her, people are getting a first
glimpse of SpaceShipOne returning from space.
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SpaceShipOne spiraling towards the ground, chased by the Extra 300 and the Beech
Starship.
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SpaceShipOne (far right) coming in for a landing, accompanied by three chase
planes - (top to bottom) an Alpha Jet, a Beech Starship, and an Extra 300.
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White Knight getting ready to do a low-altitude pass over the crowd.
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The White Knight on a low-altitude pass.
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The White Knight enters a steep climb over the crowd.
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The three chase planes - (left to right) an Extra 300, a Beech Starship, and an Alpha Jet
- fly over the public viewing area in formation.
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Mike Melvill, standing on top of his spacecraft, is rolled triumphantly towards the
spectators. Some dude ran forward to photograph him, risking the wrath of airport
security.
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Mike Melvill getting closer to the cheering crowd.
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The crowd goes wild as a newly minted astronaut and his spaceship are rolled past.
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Mike Melvill gives thumbs up.
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The two men in the back of the truck are Burt Rutan (in the yellow shirt) and Paul Allen.
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Another shot of Mike Melvill and SpaceShipOne.