A record-breaking, innovative experiment will be spending the next six months in the Carson Valley.
The Airbus Perlan Mission 2 will be at the Minden-Tahoe Airport in the new Dennis Tito Perlan Hangar where it will be testing and preparing to set new altitude records.
The Perlan Mission is a glider that will make history next year by soaring next to the edge of space, about 90,000 feet in the air.
The plane will spend six months in Minden while in its test flight phase, before going to Argentina next summer to make the record-breaking flight.
The hangar housing the glider is courtesy of Dennis Tito, the first person to commercially travel to space. The hangar has an 85-foot door in order to house the wingspan of the glider.
“This is as challenging to me, and as exciting to me as the prospect of going to space,” said Tito.
Minden was chosen as the test flight area because the mountain wave helps gliders reach new heights and understand the turbulence. Minden is also one of the most popular places in the U.S. for gliding.
“Soaring is one of those things that should be on everybody’s bucket list.” Said Jim Payne, chief pilot of Perlan 2.
Payne has been a Minden resident for the last 3 1/2 years, after retiring from the Edwards Air Force Base and leaving Rosamond, Calif., behind.
With more than 6,000 hours of glider time, Payne is more than excited to be a part of this project.
In order to fund the project, Perlan 2 looked for sponsors and people who were willing to donate time and money to the glider.
Airbus stepped up to take on some of the costs.
“I’ve had the good fortune of being in aviation my whole career,” said Airbus Group Inc. CEO Allan McArtor. “To be able to participate is really special for me.”
Airbus Group Inc. is the U.S. based operation of Airbus Group, which is a global leader in aeronautics and space.
The sponsorship allowed the completion of the Perlan 2 and the deployment of the glider to Argentina.
“The Airbus group is very proud to play a small role in this initiative,” said McArtor.
The flight will gain critical scientific research, investigate the impact of stratospheric waves on global weather patterns and help to gain understanding to improve high altitude and extra-planetary flight possibilities.
In addition to exploration, the Perlan 2 project has also partnered with Teachers in Space Inc., a nonprofit educational organization stimulating student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by providing teachers with space experiences and industry connections.
“If the students are stuck in the classroom they aren’t experiencing things,” said Teachers in Space President Elizabeth Kennick. “This program allows them to do something real.”
The program aims to get teachers armed with information they can bring back to their students to create an interest in STEM topics.
They teamed up with Perlan 2 by offering students a chance to send their science project to space ranging from atmospheric testing to low-pressure effects on everyday objects.
“Give teachers something exciting to do and they will run with it,” said Kennick.
This project will break records and change the way we view space, with the possibilities being endless, according to Tito.
“Nothing is bigger than Perlan flying to 90,000 feet,” he said.