Up, up, and a (no) way!

Up, up, and a (no) way!

Up, up, and a (no) way!

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 17 2010 7:00 AM

Up, up, and a (no) way!

[Update: The comments for this post have been... interesting. Opinions are all over the place on this. I know the Humor tag is small and easy to overlook, but I pretty much figured the tone of this post made it clear I was just being silly. Either I missed the mark, or I have a lot of commenters who did. Given that choice, I'll just assume I'm funny. :) Actually, rereading it, the skydiver I mentioned threw off the vibe of the post, so I removed it. Hopefully that'll bring the tone more to where I wanted it to be, and I certainly hope no one was offended.

Anyway, to be clear, I was kidding. This sounds like a fun sport, and it would be awesome to watch. However, I stand by the whole I'd-never-do-it-in-a-million-years thing. It takes a special kind of crazy to load a rocket motor onto the back of a plane. I'm happy it's being done, and a lot happier people other than me are doing it!]

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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I just received a very odd press release: the Tulsa Air and Space Museum is partnering with something called the Rocket Racing League to create -- get this -- a rocket racing show. Like an air show, but with rocket-powered vehicles. They have a poster and everything:

rocketracingposter

Now, as soon as I read this press release I had three thoughts barrel through my brain, willy-nilly, right on top of each other. They were, in order:

1) This must be a hoax.
2) No, I think this is real, and we live in THE FUTURE.
3) This is a really bad idea.

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I've been to a few air shows. They make me nervous, not the least reason for which is all the footage you ever see of air shows on TV is when two planes slam into each other or the ground or the spectators or some other obstacle like a goose, the main feature of all these being the slamming.

So, doing this with a rocket motor strapped to your backside just strikes me as being, well, a terrible, terrible idea. Apparently they have some sort of course the rocketeers must go through -- ostensibly without the circa 1991 Jennifer Connelly waiting for them when they land* -- and the audience at the show can follow along on giant TV screens using some sort of augmented reality system. People watching on TV can, according to the press release, "have the unique sensation of riding right alongside famed Rocket Racing League pilots."

Yeah, not so much for me. I think I'll watch Spongebob reruns. Much safer. And that way I can just wait for the highlights on "America's Funniest Rockets Slamming into Things Way Faster Than a Plane Can".


* Yes, I am assuming all the rocketeers are men (well, heterosexual men if you want to be really specific). It's not sexist; it's because all the women I know are far too smart to strap a rocket to their backside in this manner.