Klyde Flies In Space!
"You finally got a &$!%ing ant into space." Those were the words of Ken Wolff, one of Wes Oleszewski's childhood friends, when he heard the news. It was just after the flight of SpaceShipOne that claimed the X Prize and Wes was letting just a few close friends know that a Klyde Morris doll had been aboard!
As many who read the cartoon strip know, Wes' cartoons and Klyde Morris have their roots in his oddball childhood where countless ants were plucked from the sidewalks and then blasted into the sky aboard some contrived rocket or flying vehicle. Wes' tinkering and inventing often led to horrific crashes that annoyed the adult neighbors and thrilled the neighborhood kids. It was often whispered that you never knew what "that kid" was going to launch next from his backyard. Wes would draw cartoons spoofing his own failures and expressing his passion for spaceflight. In later years those cartoons evolved into those read today on klydemorris.com, Aero-News Network and Space Front Magazine.
When Aero-News invited Wes to come out to Mojave and witness the flight of SpaceShipOne, he was compelled to say "yes." otherwise his wife Teresa threatened to go in his place. As the plans were discussed, Aero-News Network's Editor-in-Chief Jim Campbell brought up the subject of Rutan's teddy bear that would be flying aboard SpaceShipOne. Wes quipped "He should be sending a Klyde doll." After a long moment of silence Campbell said "Bring one."
The evening prior to the X-2 flight, which was the second of the two flights required to win the X Prize, the folks of X Prize offered Aero-News a slot to place "something" aboard SpaceShipOne. Campbell came into the newsroom and told Wes "Get the doll." Of course Wes had a doll, and a back-up doll, and a back-up back-up doll ready to go- each secretly marked to assure authenticity. The primary doll was sent into the X Prize pipeline with the warning that it could still be bumped at the last minute for weight concerns. It was not until just before SpaceShipOne taxied out that Wes was notified that Klyde was indeed aboard and was going into space.
No one but those closest to Wes knew that when SpaceShipOne ignited its engine and soared into the deep blue Mojave Desert sky, a little boy's dream was coming true. The strangest kid on the block, that oddball from 3324 Lexington Street in Saginaw, Michigan, was finally, although perhaps figuratively, putting an ant into space- after 35 years of trying. As CNN showed ignition, 2,800 miles away Wes' mom shouted at the television "Hold on Klyde!"
Once the flight was over, Wes kept the news fairly quiet, waiting for X Prize to certify and document the Klyde Morris figure as a true space artifact. On October 21, 2004 Aero-News' Jim Campbell recovered the doll from X Prize and the following day it was awarded back to Wes at the AOPA Expo by AOPA President (and huge Klyde fan) Phil Boyer. And yes- it was the same doll- the secret markings matched.
Plans are to use the Klyde doll to stimulate interest in aviation and spaceflight among kids and adults. Klyde will visit schools, tour where invited and even reside on-loan for a time at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where the Klyde Morris cartoon strip was started back in 1978. In the end Wes intends to donate the doll to the National Air and Space Museum as a space artifact. Meanwhile, the Klyde doll resides in a specially constructed stainless steel vault within the walls of a hermetically sealed reinforced concrete bunker, until it can be properly insured. Okay... so it's really just sitting above his computer in his office... but that's not the "space artifact" image we want to project... so just go with the vault image.
Exact replicas of the Klyde doll that flew in space (minus the secret marking- of course) can be obtained in the Klyde Mart on this web site. Supplies are very limited (for those of you who believed the vault thing) so get yours RIGHT NOW, before they're all gone!