EDWARDS AFB — Commuters driving onto Edwards Air Force Base — and the tens of thousands of visitors to last month’s Aerospace Valley Air Show — can see the skeleton of the future Flight Test Museum and Education Center rising from the desert, just outside the West Gate on Rosamond Boulevard.
The Museum has been in the works for years, as the nonprofit Flight Test Museum Foundation raises the millions of dollars necessary to create the one-of-a-kind facility that will not only celebrate the myriad aerospace achievements that have taken place in the skies overhead, but also provide the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education necessary for tomorrow’s achievements.
With the aid of a $2.1 million donation from an anonymous philanthropist, last month, the Foundation was able to erect the skeleton of the Museum’s first 60,000-square-foot hangar.
“That was what pushed us over the edge to be able to do this,” Foundation Director of Education and Community Outreach Lisa Brown said.
About another $2.5 million is needed to complete the hangar and make it a fully functional museum space. At that point, they can start moving in the aircraft collection and displays and open to the public, she said.
“For practical purposes, we need to get those aircraft indoors. They are sandblasted out there,” Brown said.
Fully completing the museum, with a second 60,000-square-foot hangar and an educational center, library and archives, will take approximately $15 million.
The planned museum will be a state-of-the-art replacement for the existing Air Force Flight Test Museum, which is not only far too small for its collection, but also inaccessible to the general public, situated inside the Edwards AFB security gates.
As it strives to raise the funds necessary to build out the new facility, the Foundation is hosting the annual Gathering of Eagles, at 4:30 p.m., on Saturday, at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds.
The event, the Foundation’s major fundraiser, will mark the 75th anniversary of the first supersonic flight by looking back at the aerospace barriers that have been broken and looking ahead to the accomplishments on the horizon.
Headlining this year’s Gathering is Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry Jr., son of the legendary creator of the “Star Trek” science fiction franchise and guardian of the Roddenberry legacy.
As with the aerospace achievements celebrated by the Museum, “Star Trek” also broke barriers. Roddenberry will discuss those and where the show is heading in the future.
In addition to serving as the chief executive officer of Roddenberry Entertainment, he is an executive producer of “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Picard” and “Star Trek: Lower Decks.” He also spearheads the Roddenberry Podcast Network, whose Mission Log is distinguished as the most downloaded of all “Star Trek” podcasts.
As the Foundation marks 75 years of breaking barriers, three people will join the ranks of Eagles, honored for their achievements and contributions to aerospace history: former NASA research pilot and astronaut Fred Haise, former NASA astronaut and current NASA Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy and retired Air Force Col. Todd “Leif” Ericson, a former Air Force test pilot who has also worked with Virgin Galactic and is the SpaceX/Polaris Dawn Mission director.
The three honorees will be joined by four others in a panel discussion on the science of aerospace and the flight test that brought us to where we are, today, and the future of human space exploration.
The additional panel members include commercial astronaut Jared “Rook” Isaacman, former NASA research pilot and 2001 Eagle Donald Mallick, Virgin Galactic Director of Flight Test and 2018 Eagle Kelly Latimer, Blue Origin Principal Test Engineer Wesley Persall and master of ceremonies retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bill “Evil” Gray.
The evening will also include dinner, a silent auction, presentation of two scholarships and aviation art for sale, with half the proceeds going to the Foundation.
Tickets for the event are available at $150 per person, including dinner and the program. All but $35 is tax-deductible as a donation to the nonprofit Foundation.
Tickets may be purchased at the Foundation’s website, https://event.auctria.com/67388b37-0593-4533-b8a0-c48669a9bf44/aa6cd270-8751-11e9-a741-3fcfcb35cbb0