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Losing A Champion

I didn't see Len Cormier at Space Access in March, though he has rarely missed one in the past. Now via an email from Pat Kelley, I learned why:

I'm sad to announce that Len Cormier is losing his battle with cancer. I spoke with him today, and he's in a hospice awaiting the end. I've had the privilege of his friendship and professional partnership for over ten years, and I hate to see this come to an end before my goal of at least giving him the satisfaction of seeing a project birthed from his incredible intellect at least get started.

Len is not terribly religious, but I know he would not be offended by good wishes, prayers, or whatever means you may choose to honor him. I will miss him.

I don't know how far from the end it is, and where there's life there's hope, so I won't talk about him in the past tense. But if he doesn't make it, it will be a damned shame. No one living has been talking about affordable access to space, and worked as hard at it as Len, having been an advocate for almost half a century. He was also one of the gentlest men, in the gentleman sense, that I've ever met, always gracious, even in the face of unreasonable criticism and often vituperation.

It's a tragedy that he is leaving us just as the funding dam is starting to break on the kinds of projects that he has been advocating for so long, and that he won't see the results. He should go knowing, though, that he played a significant role in laying the ground work for it, and inspired many who will carry on in his stead. Despite his failure to achieve his audacious goals, I think that he'll be far more than a footnote in the history of astronautics.

[Update a few minutes later]

Another email comment from Rick Jurmain:

Len's a man with dreams too grand for a single lifetime. That's as it should be.

Or, to paraphrase Sunset Boulevard: He is big. It's the space program that got small.

It's been an honor to work with Len. I'll remember him.


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Jim Davis wrote:

This is indeed sad news.

I was not fortunate enough to meet Len in person. Online he was the epitomy of class and a real gentleman.

Jim Davis

Doug Jones wrote:

I worked with Len at Vela Technology, and again when he was part of the Coleman/XCOR team for RASCAL. Len is brilliant, and has always been ahead of his time.

A delightful bit of trivia: at Space Access in '04 or so he looked around at the many portraits of Marylin Monroe in the hotel and commented that it felt a bit strange, because he dated Norma Jean briefly back in '46, just after the war. He never said anything more about her, because he's too much of a gentleman.

Paul Breed wrote:

At space access 06 or 07 (I don't remember which)
He started his presentation with a picture of he and Norma Jean to prove he had been truthful in 2005.

A class act.


Gary C Hudson wrote:

(Cross posted to Hobbyspace.)

Finding Len had been there a few years before me (he started in 1967, me in 1969) gave hope to the notion that I wasn't crazy. In retrospect, maybe we both are/were, since we assumed then that private space transportation was near-term, rather than the far-far-term it has proven to be.

I found his Windjammer (the true predecessor to RASV) elegant and clever. And he never ignored the business case along the way to inventive technology, either.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on June 3, 2008 7:41 AM.

The Next Star Chamber Defendant was the previous entry in this blog.

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