July’s “Plane Crazy Saturday,” a free monthly lecture series hosted by the Mojave Transportation Museum and the Mojave Air and Space Port, attracted a larger-than-normal crowd. The featured speaker was writer and aviation historian Peter Merlin, who has written extensively about Area 51, and the audience was eager to hear about the histories, myths and rumors about the mysterious test site.

Merlin didn’t disappoint, according to Bill Deaver in the Antelope Valley Press and Kane Wickham in Mojave Desert News. Here are just some of the facts Merlin shared:
● Area 51 was first used as a test site in 1955, when the CIA and Air Force wanted to test high-altitude spy planes in a remote, private location.
● The rumors about UFOs started because those test planes reflected sunlight and caught the attention of commercial pilots in the area.
● Myths and rumors also grew because multiple news releases had conflicting information about what was being done at Area 51, and at time, the CIA denied its very existence.
● The U.S. Air Force took over the site in 1978, and it’s still used for specialized aviation research.

Scaled Composites Connects with Enthusiasts at AirVenture

Last July, Scaled Composites attended Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture, an annual event for aviation and aerospace enthusiasts in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, according to Allison Gatlin in the Antelope Valley Press.

Although Scaled Composites’ founder, Burt Rutan, used to attend AirVenture and sell plans for home-built airplanes, Scaled Composites hasn’t had much of a presence at the event for several years. They’ve been busy instead working on projects like the SpaceShipTwo rocketplane and the Stratolaunch mothership.

The company was eager to return to Wisconsin this year, where they showed off their Proteus high-altitude plane. They also planned to host informative forum sessions to talk to attendees about Scaled Composites’ projects and work in the industry—hoping in part to attract some to join the company. Scaled Composites has a dedicated pavilion at AirVenture for their exhibits and 40 presentations, which ranged from building and flying your own plane to building a “flying football field” about the Stratolaunch plane (the largest plane ever built). The presentations were a mix of entertainment and education, all designed to show off Scaled Composites’ achievements and culture of innovation.

Emerging Trends in the Global Space Tourism Market

A recent report by Technavio looks at the global space tourism market and analyzes emerging trends in the market, according to BusinessWire.

The trends Technavio identified are:
● Increase in the number of next-generation engineers, where the innovation and opportunities in the industry attract and inspire a new generation of engineers.
● Decrease in the cost of space tourism—as the cost of reaching space declines for launching satellites and space exploration mission, it will get more economically feasible for more consumers (though still only an option for the extremely wealthy)
● Possibility of hypersonic travel, which is traveling at Mach 5 or above (five times the speed of sound), as costs come down.

Although space tourism is a still an emerging market, the Technavio report sees lots of room for growth and opportunity in the industry, with vendors like Virgin Galactic expected to offer passenger space flights by 2019. Commercial demand is expected to grow and draw further investments in the technology and market.