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Setting The Record Straight

The commentary continues over at Clark Lindsey's place about how long it will/should take to get low-cost access into space. I probably should respond to this one comment, though, since it seems to be advancing a lot of mythology about me and weightless flights.

Rand Simberg is a right wing nutjob, but, he is a true believer in space. He went with Weaver Aerospace to sell Zero-Grav flights to Ron Howard for the Apollo 13 movie. He had the proposal, he had the aircraft, he had a credible charter operator. NASA dove in and gave the flights away for free. Sadly, Simberg then went and did the same deal for "From the Earth to the Moon" and NASA did it to him again.

Well, to start off, of course (and nothing to do with space), but I'm neither "right wing" or a "nutjob." As far as I know.

But to deal with the more substantive statements, this is mostly wrong. I did put in a proposal to Ron Howard's production company for Apollo XIII, and I did have a charterable 727 lined up. Our plan was to palletize the movie set, and use the freight doors to load and unload between shoots, so the airplane could continue to be used for other things. We weren't going to get a special type certificate for it, as Zero-G did (at a cost of millions of dollars and many years), because it was going to be flown on an experimental certificate out of Vegas or Mojave. This was all greased with the local FAA FSDO, with whom we had worked to do T-39 flights for R&D, using Al Hansen's plane in Mojave (he's Burt's next-door neighbor).

But NASA didn't "dive in and and give the flights away for free." NASA originally sent Howard's people to me, and I had a meeting with them in Century City, when they asked me for a proposal. I submitted the proposal, and was told by the executive producer that they were looking it over, but before they were going to make a commitment, they wanted to try if in the K-bird first, to see if filming was practical in that environment. I was suspicious, but there wasn't much I could do. At the same time, they were telling NASA that we couldn't do the job, and that they had fulfilled their obligation to try to find a commercial provider, so now they had to use the KC-135. So they basically lied to both me and JSC. I don't think they got free flights--I believe that JSC was reimbursed some (probably arbitrary, since NASA never knew what the Comet really cost) amount per hour.

Somewhere I actually documented the history for NASA, and sent it to June Edwards (I don't know if she's still with the agency) at Code L (legal office) at HQ, when she had to do some fact finding at the behest of Dana Rohrabacher's office. Unfortunately, I lost it in a hard disk failure a few years ago.

Anyway, NASA was not the villain. We were both lied to by people in Hollywood (I'll give you a minute to express your shock at the very thought of such a thing).

Oh, and as for "From the Earth to the Moon," I never had any involvement in it whatsoever. It was basically a lot of the same people, given that it was a Tom Hanks production, and they just went back to NASA. I saw no point in wasting my time trying to put together another proposal that would be sure to be rejected.

And of course, when Lee Weaver was killed in an auto accident, a couple weeks before 911, that was pretty much the end of any interest I had in getting a weightless flight business going, after almost a decade of struggle, and a lot of debt, with which I'm still burdened.

Peter had money lined up for Zero-G, and I didn't see any way to break in, when it was uncertain how large the market would be. Also, if I'd known what he had to go through to get the special type certificate for the airplane from the FAA, I'd have probably not even attempted it. He might even feel the same way, for all I know, but he's through the tunnel now.


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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on June 6, 2008 6:49 AM.

Mormons And Infrastructure was the previous entry in this blog.

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