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Sun, Oct 24, 2004

AOPA Expo '04: It's Official--Klyde Went To Space

"After 35 years, you finally put an ant in space."

That was the comment made by one of cartoonist Wes Oleszewski's childhood pals after the record-breaking X-2 flight of SpaceShipOne. It was only then that Wes was able to break the news to a few close friends that riding aboard SpaceShipOne on the October 4th flight, that claimed the X Prize, had been a Klyde Morris figure.

The Klyde figure is the image of the cartoon character that appears here on Aero-News twice a week and taken from the editorial cartoon strip that Wes has been drawing since 1978. Ants, however, have been in Wes' creative work since his childhood experiments with model rockets. As far back as 1969 the poor creatures were plucked from Wes' neighborhood sidewalks and blasted into the sky by some form of rocket or flying vehicle that he had altered and redesigned to make it fly cooler. The results were often spectacular crashes that sometimes frightened and annoyed the neighboring adults, but thrilled the local kids. Wes would draw cartoons spoofing his failures. Those cartoons later evolved into the Klyde Morris cartoon strip, and its ant character by the same name.

When discussion about coverage of the X Prize attempt by SpaceShipOne began between Aero-News and Wes, the subject of Rutan's teddy bear passenger came up (the one that accompanied Burt when he flew onboard Zero G Corporation's 727). Wes quipped that it should be a Klyde figure. Aero-News Editor-In-Chief, Jim Campbell, thought briefly and then simply said "Bring one." Shortly before the X-2 flight of SpaceShipOne, the X Prize folks notified Campbell that Aero-News could place something aboard the flight.

Campbell told Wes to "Go Get Klyde," and within seconds the Klyde Morris replica was in the pipeline to travel into space. It was not until the morning of the flight that the Aero-News staff was officially informed that Klyde Morris was actually aboard SpaceShipOne.

Following the flight, Wes told only a few friends that Klyde had gone into space. The figure had to be unloaded, certified and recorded by X Prize before the ride was official. Following that protracted process, the figure was returned to Jim Campbell, who in turn gave it to AOPA President Phil Boyer. On October 22nd, Mr. Boyer presented (shown above) the Klyde figure to Wes at the AOPA Expo in Long Beach during the press conference that launched Wes' new Klyde Morris book (story coming up shortly).

Plans are in the offing that will allow the the figure to tour, making educational visits and promoting interest in aviation and spaceflight. The figure will reside on loan to the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for a time, and will eventually be donated to the National Air and Space Museum. Replicas of the Klyde figure can be purchased at klydemorris.com or at klydemart.com. Supplies are limited.

FMI: www.klydemorris.com, www.xprize.org, www.klydemart.com

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