Chair Force Engineer

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Spaceships at Roswell?

Today, July 2, is generally accepted by the UFO community as the date of the Roswell Incident in 1947. The significance of this event (or non-event, depending on your perspective) is not lost on British aerospace journalists. They are eagerly covering their native son, Richard Branson, in his quest for space; unfortunately, the sensational mention of "Roswell" is finding its way into too many Branson-related stories.

I remember reading a story from last December (I think it was in The Times) that the New Mexico spaceport was being built "near Roswell." I've got news for The Times--the spaceport is in Upham, which is over 100 miles away from Roswell (as the crow flies.) If you stood in my face and told me that Roswell was close to Upham, I would laugh at you and say that you were out of your gourd; I would then force you to drive that distance with the windows rolled down and Def Leppard's Hysteria blasting as loud as possible.

More recently, there was a story in Flight International claiming that SpaceShipTwo would have sufficient cross range "to reach Roswell." It might be a handy capability in the event of an emergency that would preclude landing at Upham, but that's about it. For the sake of the space tourism business, Branson & co. will want to land their spaceship at the same place it took off from. For the same reason, NASA prefers landing the shuttle at Kennedy Space Center, and will only settle for Edwards if there's no chance of landing at the Cape.

For that matter, I'm trying to figure out why somebody who pays $200,000 for a spaceflight would want to mess around with a visit to Roswell. The town is a tourist trap, thanks to the UFO museum and related tourist stops. The museum itself is the brainchild of Walter Haut, the public affairs officer who told the world that a "flying disk" had been recovered. Haut revealed himself to be an opportunist, promoting Roswell witnesses whose credibility was questionable at best. While Haut benefitted from the "Roswell Crash" mythos, it played a sizable role in the recovery of that city after Walker Air Force Base was closed. In jest, I suggested that AFRL crash another balloon near Cannon AFB when that base was in danger of closing.

Many people already have a hard time in taking space tourism seriously. It doesn't help the situation when sensational British reporters are mixing the "space alien" mythos into this very serious subject.