The Final Countdown: October 15, 2009: Virgin Galactic’s bullet-nosed rocket, SpaceShipTwo, sits in the hangar of Scaled Composites in Mojave, California, awaiting a paint job before its public debut in December. Click here to launch the gallery for a closer look at SpaceShipTwo under construction. John B. Carnett
For a traveler heading up the highway toward the Mojave Air and Space Port, in the desert 70 miles north of Los Angeles, the surroundings are ghostly. Silent 747s and DC-10 jumbo jets from defunct airlines, along with smaller 727s and DC-9s, some cut up or resting on pylons, are visible from miles away, looking frozen and forlorn. Parked along the road at the airport entrance is a 1962 Convair 990, which began its life as an American Airlines jet airliner. Now the wind whistles through its nacelles and birds nest in its wheel wells.