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May 11, 2021
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I was reminiscing about the Space Access conference hosted by Henry Vanderbilt and thought about Aleta Jackson who since passed away. She was a tough lady who got me fired up enough to go and work at XCOR Aerospace in the Mojave desert. When she passed away, Randall Clague, had a good eulogy for her, and I thought I would share.

"Aleta was one of those people you can’t really describe. You had to be there. More than anyone else I know, Aleta inspired and persuaded people to be there. She started dozens of NewSpace careers, mine included, daring people to come to Mojave and make history.

ERPS always brought hardware to space conferences. One year at Space Frontier, Michael Wallis and I were sitting at the bar with the 750 lb peroxide engine. “Bet you’ve never had a rocket engine on your bar before.” Aleta heard that, told us, “Wait here,” and disappeared. We waited there. When Aleta told you to do something, you did it.

She reappeared carrying a beautiful trophy cup we recognized as a Rotary Rocket 5000 lb burner can. “Bet you’ve never had *two* rocket engines on your bar before.” I looked at the beautiful shiny aluminum bell, no discoloration at all, and said, “Ours has been fired.” (Dumb, yeah, I know. Now.) She got that look in her eye – you know the one – and said, “So has ours. Last night.” “Not with that bell it hasn’t.”

If I had to describe Aleta in one word, the word would be “empirical.” Aleta grabbed my head, stuffed it into the bell, and said, “SMELL.” To hear was to obey. I smelled. “Kerosene and phenolic. It’s been fired. Recently.” “LAST NIGHT. …The bell is cosmetic.”

That was Aleta in a nutshell. No claim she couldn’t back, no pride she hadn’t earned. Aleta lived while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Ad Astra, Aleta."
Back in the '80s I was playing in a 18-piece big band and one of the trombone players came over to my house and saw the only rocket that I had and said "wow didn't know you were into rockets and I actually am a rocket scientist and I have a PhD in propulsion from Purdue University". We were working at Owens Corning Fiberglass at their research and development center at the time, then both of us got let go in a restructure and he went on to work at Edwards Air Force Base at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories for about 10 years. We still keep in contact and he has a friend that is going to use his CAD experience to lay out the Sea Killer rocket that I will hopefully do a level three on.