Not your father's retro rocket. On second thought maybe it is.

Zoom, zoom, zoom: Retro rocket style lives on today.
Zoom, zoom, zoom: Retro rocket style lives on today.Courtesy xparxy
Do you yearn to relive the glory days of space travel, back when the space industry was run by scientists and engineers rather than hindered by politicians and the Military-Industrial Complex? Do you drool at the prospect of riding in one of those oh-so-very-cool retro rococo-style rockets popularly portrayed in the media during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s?

Well, then you better get your Earth-bound behind out to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada for the Burning Man Festival starting at the end of this month. This year, the annual counter-culture festival will feature a full-sized cigar-shaped Raygun Gothic Rockethip being constructed right now in a warehouse in Oakland, California.

Three artists, Sean Orlando, David Shulman, and Nathaniel Taylor came up with the idea for the rocket and even got a Burning Man grant to fund the project. Orlando, whose father worked as a contractor at NASA, said he hopes the project will re-convey the wonderment space travel elicited in the industry’s early pre-NASA days.

The vehicle will be out-of-this-world (pun intended) and when completed will stand 40-feet tall with three levels of circular rooms setting upon the 17-foot steel legs. The entire massive steel frame will be covered in a skin of brushed aluminum (polished on site) and held in place by thousands of rivets. A team of more than 60 people is hard at work on the structure, and lest you think it’s just some frivolous art project, well you couldn’t be more… actually you’re probably absolutely right. But just recently Dr. Wade Enright, a leading high voltage researcher from New Zealand joined the team along with Dr. Alan Rorie, a high voltage artist to help develop the Uira Engine, a kinetic, high voltage sculpture serving as the rocket’s power source and engine. Uira means “lightning” in the language of New Zealand's indigenous Maori. This ought to add some excitement and sparks to the rocketship and to the festivities.

The plan is to unveil the spaceship during the festival with great ceremony on a launch pad in the desert. Festival participants will be permitted to climb aboard and make their way up through the three compartments where they’ll interact with all sorts of early-to-mid-twentieth century gadgetry, and navigational components complete with blinking lights. A telescope (for deep space scanning) will be included, and a pilot seat in the cockpit will allow neo-retro (?) astronauts to swivel around to check the instruments, most of which I suspect will have been built by the Acme Corporation. After exploring the vastness of space (both inner and maybe outer), visitors will exit across a bridge to a gantry and back down to terra firma.

If you think this would be something you’d like to see, but can’t make it to the Nevada desert, check out the Raygun Gothic Rocketship site where you can see plans, specs, sketches, photos and videos. There’s even a retro countdown clock so you can follow the spaceship’s progress to blast-off.

Story on

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options