1/15/17

The Passing of a Friend

Last December, a good friend, coworker, and pioneering space maverick Aleta Jackson passed away. Aleta was kind of like the mother of XCOR, and she treated us all like a loving, nurturing mother. She was a very capable and motivated individual, too. A lot of my coworkers and even classmates at Iowa State looked up to her as a role-model. She was particularly an inspiration to girls everywhere who aspire to greatness in the field of astronautics, space, and aerospace. Aleta's whole life was dedicated to opening up the realm of outer space to the rest of us. She was a very capable person: she learned welding, she spoke Japanese, was a huge science fiction nerd (and she could write, too), she loved to build things and work with her hands, and she was good at making connections, always seeming to be at the foundation of every enterprise she undertook, behind the scenes making it all work. She was very subtle in some ways, and very ferocious in others! (Who could forget the story of her holding three burglars at sword-point with her katana until the cops arrived?) Aleta was the first person to contact me from XCOR asking me if I was "still interested" in the internship position. Her description of what life and work on the Mojave Air and Space Port made me almost explode with wonderment and excitement. Of course I am "still interested"!!! She tried to downplay it and make it sound like a bad idea to come out, but for some reason it had the opposite effect, and just today I learned that all of the interns and new hires got a similar warning from her about the hardships of working on a dusty little spaceport for a little rocket company. Aleta always took care of us at the office and helped to create a wonderful, creative and easygoing work environment at XCOR. She always told us to go home and recharge if we were working too hard. Aleta and her husband Dan were very gracious and let me stay at their house in Mojave for free while they were trying to sell it. Unfortunately I didn't get to see Aleta since then, and I really regret that. I wish I'd taken the time to get to know her better. Sometimes you don't recognize how much someone means to you until they're gone, and I mourn that. This afternoon was her memorial here in Midland. Everyone had very fond memories of her and I enjoyed hearing stories about her from people who knew her much better than I did. 

Painting of Aleta on the cover of a science fiction book called "A Lion on Tharthee" by Grant Callin

Aleta posing with the "EZ Rocket," the first rocket powered vehicle built by XCOR.


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