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July 28, 2007

Charles “Glen” May, Space Pioneer

During a test at Scaled Composite’s Mojave Desert launch site on Thursday, July 27, an explosion took the lives of three employees and seriously injured several others. Killed in the initial blast were Charles “Glen” May, 45, and Eric Blackwell, 38. Todd Ivens, 33, was air-lifted out, but died that evening. Several other employees remain hospitalized in Bakersfield, CA.

“We lost one of our own yesterday,” National Space Society Executive Vice President Greg Allison said. “Glen May was a member of HAL5 [Huntsville Alabama L5 chapter of NSS], was a key player in our HALO project [High-Altitude Lift-Off], and he worked for me at the High Altitude Research Corporation on our BLRV [Balloon Launch Return Vehicle] and CATS [Cheap Access to Space] Prize rockets.” [See video on You-Tube:]

“Though he lived in Memphis back then,” Greg recalled, “he came to Huntsville frequently to help us work on our rockets. Glen worked really hard at all of our test firings and launches, too. Glen built the first rocket bike. We all cheered as he blasted past us at our old test site on it.”

The cause of the explosion is under investigation. Aviation Week indicated the mishap occurred during tests of an injector for a new rocket motor involving the transfer of nitrous oxide. This oxidizer is planned for use in the hybrid rocket engine under development for SpaceShipTwo, a joint venture between the Virgin group and Scaled Composites. Aviation Week further reported that this test, thought to be a 'cold fire' run of the injector, had already been successfully performed on the new rocket at least once before.

“Glen May was a good guy and a good friend,” Allison commented. “Glen embraced life and lived it to the fullest. His passion infected all that knew him. I am honored to have known him.

“He was the best hand on the launch boats when we went out to sea to launch our rockoons. When every one else was grumbling, Glen was all smiles and eager to work.

“His broad smile and easy manner are the things I will remember the most. He used to call me from time to time and talk about how he missed the trees out this way after he moved to the Mojave to work for Scaled Composites. He pondered moving to Huntsville. At one time he even thought about renting a room in my home.

The Spaceship Company, a joint venture between the Virgin group and Scaled Composites, have been working toward their first commercial space flights in late 2009. It is unknown at this time what impact this accident will have on that schedule.

“The [rocket] business is very risky,” Allison said, “but also very worthy. I knew space tourism would take lives, but I had hoped it would not happen this soon. It is especially very hard when it happens to a friend. Glen was a pioneer. Those of us that knew him will miss him dearly. This is very hard for all of us.”

Yet Allison believes that space development must continue despite tragedy. “I know Glen would want us to press on,” Allison said. “He died doing what he loved the most. Glen always wanted to go to space. Now he is up there with our creator.

Members of the National Space Society offer our condolences to all at Scaled Composites, the family and friends of those brave pioneers we lost, and prayers that the injured recover as quickly as possible.


Marianne Dyson

From Greg Allison:

Here is Glen's top site:

Good pictures of Glen here. I took that first picture of Glen on the first rocket bike run. The second picture is a good one of him. It typifies that broad smile I mentioned in the first post. Notice the caption at the very

You should see the video of this:

Glen's Pics from our HARC CATS Prize launch (His comments about himself standing in front of the CATS Prize rocket typify both his humor and thirst for rocket adventure - what a guy!):

Glen understood the danger of the rocket business. The Experimental Manned Rocketry Association of America,

Glen really wanted to ride up on one of our HALO Balloons,

Glen thought the world of Tim Pickens. He devoted an entire page to Tim. The picture of DC-X remains is from my own back yard (~17 pictures down):

Posted by m_dyson at 05:17 PM


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