I found this year’s X Prize Cup to be something of a disappointment, more about hype than substance. And it didn’t help that food was in short supply on the ground, as attested to by an attendee quoted in a report for the Las Cruces newspaper. I’m all about food at events. Feed me well and I’m happy. If there isn’t good food, well….
However, schemes are already trickling in for next year’s Cup that should make it more exciting.
Here he is with Orion engineer Angie Fulmer at the Orion booth at the space symposium held in Las Cruces just before the X Prize Cup last weekend.
“You take a truck,” Pickens told me as I snapped this picture. “You don’t do anything to it. It’s just a nice ride you buy from some teenager. They put all their money in it, and now it’s a low-rider.”
Then you bolt a 2,000 pound thrust hybrid rocket engine fueled by nitrous oxide and asphalt into the truck bed. Most of the time you hide the rocket engine behind the tailgate.
But when you pull up to a red light next to “some smart-Alec with a thumpin and bumpin” sound system, you can drop the tail gate and “you say ‘I got your noise right here!'” and boom! light that thing up and blast off down the road in the world’s most powerful drag racer.
Pickens wants to show up at the next X Prize Cup in the rocket rider with Fulmer behind the wheel to help turn heads, and then do some rocket demos everyone can relate to. Now, that I’d like to see.
There’s a serious purpose behind Pickens’s fun. “What it will do,” says Pickens, “is it’ll show the inherent safety of hybrids.” Not to mention get people thinking about how they can get their own rocket to ride in. And isn’t that what a rocket expo should be all about?