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Tim Pickens and Glen May
Tim Pickens (left) and Glen May during the development of the SpaceShipOne propulsion system. (credit: Tim Pickens)

On the loss of our good friend Glen May

This grieving has been a difficult time for many of us.

Glen was the first propulsion technician we brought out to support SpaceShipOne because Glen had “The Right Stuff!” Glen considered himself a soldier on a mission, and he did whatever it took to get the mission accomplished. Glen accepted the risks that come with this line of work. Glen was a commonsense-oriented guy, and he performed many missions with impeccable valor.

Anyone who has seen a picture of pilot Brian Binnie standing on top of SpaceShipOne after winning the X Prize has seen the hand and heart of Glen May.

Glen May’s contributions to SpaceShipOne are seldom told. Glen was humble about his Scaled accomplishments. As a good soldier, Glen did not reveal program details. Most of what can be found about Glen May on the web is about his hobbies and interests, not what he did professionally. Glen was always eager to lend a hand to a neighbor. He often would have cookouts and invite his neighbors and friends over to join in on what Glen referred to as “A Southern Tradition.”

Anyone who has seen SpaceShipOne tested or flown should think of Glen. He was involved in about every aspect of that program. Not only did he load propellants into the test motor and spacecraft, he often helped fabricate the rocket motors with advanced composite materials (he said it itched like crazy). Glen also did test engineering, procedure writing, R&D, environmental control system development and testing, CO2 scrubbing development, breathing air system support, small control thruster development and testing, and hot-fire test prep and tear down of the 12K hybrid motor. The list goes on and on.

There are also the non-technical contributions by Glen that need to be acknowledged. Anyone who has seen a picture of pilot Brian Binnie standing on top of SpaceShipOne after winning the X Prize has seen the hand and heart of Glen May. Glen is the soldier who had the vision to have the American flag represented and displayed at all test firings and successful post-test flights. Glen never brought the idea up to anyone, but he simply raised the flag at the first firing.

Glen told me one day, “Burt said something about the American flag when he came to the firing today. Burt really liked it! It’s programs like this that make America great!” Glen really felt good about serving his country.

Glen often said, “This reminds me of being in the Army, I am here for a mission!” Glen would often get an Army haircut to be in the right frame of mind when he performed his mission.

There are not enough Glen Mays in the world.

We will all miss you very much Glen!


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