[Yup, still at the airport]
To follow up on a posting from during the Space Access ’08 conference, I have an article in this week’s issue of The Space Review examining what it will take to become a “rocket pilot”, and just how interesting an occupation that will be. As many of the speakers noted, there’s little to go on in terms of official guidance or experience in training for flying rocket-powered suborbital or orbital vehicles, so people are building up their flying credentials, gaining experience and certifications in various aircraft.
I also expand in the article John Carmack’s thoughts about how flying these vehicles will be relatively routine and even mundane, rather than glamorous. There will be interesting flying opportunities for those involved in test flights or even rocket racing, but regular commercial flights will be largely automated, so that the experience will be akin to that of an elevator operator. “[O]nce it gets to the point of lots and lots of people flying on these things—elevator,” he said at one point in the panel.