Man Prepares to Ascend Vertically into Space in Own Rocket
By Rick Lukens
BEND, Ore., Dec. 1 — There's an infamous line from the old Star Trek television series: "To boldly go where no man has gone," and it just happens to be the goal for one Oregon man who plans to become the world's first backyard astronaut.
Brian Walker, also known as "Rocket Guy", has built his very own rocket, and hopes sometime next year he will climb aboard and take a ride to the edge of the atmosphere.
"Hopefully I'll launch from the black rock desert in Nevada," Walker told ABCNEWS affiliate, KXLY-TV in Spokane, Wash.
Walker is now in the fourth year of Project R.U.S.H — Rapid Up Super High — which he hopes will eventually help him reach a long-dreamed goal.
When the rocket, Earthstar One, is completed, Walker will ascend straight up 50 miles in it. The rocket will be fueled by 90 percent pure hydrogen peroxide, and will descend on its own with parachutes to assure a smooth recovery.
In the past four years of work on his project, Walker has built numerous rocket prototypes. He built a test rocket half the size of the intended final model.
When he launches the test rocket, Walker said he plans to ascend to 15,000 feet, and then descend in a sky dive using a conventional backpack parachute.
He has already used the test model to perform numerous tests on the rocket's critical revolutionary systems to assure that he will have a safe trip, when he attempts to go where he says no man has gone before.
"Still, something hasn't been done yet where a person has actually ascended vertically in a rocket," he said. "It's never been done."
Walker has worked long and hard to assure that he is prepared for his journey. He built his very own centrifuge to prepare for the G-force he will experience.
He also flew halfway to outer space in a MIG fighter, on a trip to Russia, and he experienced weightlessness with the Cosmonauts who sold him his very own space suit. Walker calls the suit "my major first line of defense."
Satisfying a Childhood Dream
Although at first many were skeptical of Walker's rocket launch plan, his relentless work has allowed them to take him seriously, and even show some interest. Walker says he has had 17.5 million hits on his Web site, www.rocketguy.com, which gives an updated account of his project's progress, and descriptions and illustrations of his various other inventions, including dozens of toys.
Walker has also received an enormous amount of media attention — doing nearly 400 interviews for radio and television. He has even had a song written about him.
A successful mission would probably elevate Walker to something akin to folk hero status locally. However, there's more to it than a streak of publicity for Walker. He said the trip would be "satisfying my own dream I've had since I was 9 years old — to strap myself on a rocket and blast myself to the edge of space."
Normally childhood dreams die with adulthood, but Walker approaches his dream more like a kid.
"Yeah, it's just a big toy. It's my version of a toy," he said.
A ‘Frisky Acceleration’
Walker's toy proves that it only takes a small blast of air to get off the ground.
"It only takes 40 pounds of air pressure to give 2,000 pounds of lift to this, and then the rocket motor produces 2,500 pounds, so when I actually launch, I'll have 4,500 pounds of thrust with a 1,000 pound rocket, so it's gonna be a very frisky acceleration," Walker said.
In the end, Walker hopes it will all be worth it.
"Then when you go to the NASA facility at Kennedy on the tour bus when they say you're at one of only two places on the planet that has ever launched a man into space, now they're gonna have to also say that guy out West," Walker said.
Walker met with the FAA about his launch license, and before he even contacted them, they already had a large file on him. He says officials there are impressed with his plan.
Rick Lukens, is a reporter for the ABCNEWS affiliate KXLY-TV in Spokane, Washington.
See Brian Walker's Site at http://www.rocketguy.com
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