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It's Been a Rocky Road, So Just Cool Your Jets

April 11, 1993

Roaring rockets! Surely the boomer space cadets at McDonnell Douglas, who are working on the Delta Clipper ("Reusable Rocket," March 29), remember the early 1950s sci-fi television series "Rocky Jones: Space Ranger." If so, they might admit being partly influenced by Rocky's spaceship. Jones, intrepid enforcer of interplanetary peace and justice, plied the video spaceways in his sleek, needle-nosed vessel, the Orbit Jet.

The description of the Delta Clipper's landing scenario is a dead-ringer for how the venerable Orbit Jet did it. After slicing downward toward whatever planet held that week's adventure, Rocky's rocket would pull up into an elegant vertical stall, then back down on a flickering flame of powerful rocket thrust to a perfect tail-fin landing. I always thought this landing sequence was even niftier to watch than the blastoff.

Best wishes to the dreamers at McDonnell Douglas in their efforts to beat the odds given by the experts and give us space transportation that looks like what those of us over 40 have always known it should.

And I would hope television cameras are around to witness the Delta Clipper prototype when it attempts to transform fantasy into reality during its upcoming test flights. Then we grown-up space rangers can watch it at home on our "visi-screens." But until that happens, I guess we'll just have to "cool our jets," be patient and wait.

GEORGE CARLISLE

Altadena, Calif.

The writer is a member of the technical staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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