While in Chicago for the Microsoft Ignite Conference, Ed and I talked at length about the project, and where it was going. We saw it as being a turning point, as powerful new cloud technologies gave us the final tools that we would need to achieve the dream of breaking the world land speed record. One of the interesting points that came out of the conversation, was our agreement that this year marked “The Beginning of the End”. The end to all of our dreams was on fast approach, and we could begin to taste it. We had no idea how true that would end up being.
When it came time to run the car in September, for Jessi to set her record of over 512 miles per hour, and to take that final step towards breaking the ultimate record, the entire team was in great spirits. And realistically, who wouldn’t be? This team is founded on the premise of doing something that few people would even dare to dream. The problem with dreaming so big is that sometimes, not everything goes according to plan.
Upon arriving at the Alvord lakebed, the team was surprised by the conditions. There was an unprecedented 9 miles of clear track to run the car, with the weather perfect for high speed runs. The car was unpacked with everything running smoothly.
By Wednesday, September 23rd, the Eagle was ready to run. There was a definite buzz of energy throughout the crew and with a beautiful burst of flame, the Eagle erupted from the start line and took off down the course. It was if we were watching the very first rocket launch into outer space; so alluring and magical. Moments later, to everyone’s dismay, the car began to pull left after having gone no more than a mile down the track. causing the run to be cut short. The run was cut short for safety reasons and the car was hauled back to the pits where the team went hard to work to find the issue.
In short order, the team discovered the problem that had arose. A hydraulic pressure valve used for the steering system had worn down internally, which meant that it could no longer maintain the proper pressure. That was when the weather took a turn for the worse. Massive dust storms began to kick up across the lakebed, making it impossible to continue to work on the vehicle during the storms. Nevertheless, after a number phone calls were made, a replacement part was found and shipped out.
With the dust storms becoming continually worse as it moved into Friday, the situation began to look increasingly grim. The replacement part arrived mid-day of the 25th, but it ended up that the wrong part had been shipped. The deteriorating weather conditions and lack of a viable pressure valve made the prospect of running quickly fall away. With that, the team began to pack up, to return the Eagle to the shop in Washington, and to make plans for what would come next.
Perhaps the hardest part of all of this was realizing that what we had worked towards for two years, to make Jessi the fastest woman on Earth, wasn’t going to happen, especially when it was so close. The road to success, is often paved with failure. And this failure has given us a new fire to redouble our efforts, and to push towards our ultimate goal, the record of 763 MPH.
The most difficult part about trying to go supersonic on the ground has been that you must be extremely cautious, taking in data at every point to ensure that safety is at the forefront of what we do. But with as much data as we collect, and such complex models, we’ve always had to use a supercomputer and several weeks to understand the results. Our partnership with Microsoft over the last year has shown us incredible new ways in which to utilize the Cloud, bringing near limitless computing power to wherever it may be needed, eliminating the need for a supercomputer and weeks of waiting.
As of today, we are here to make a statement, that the North American Eagle team is on a mission. In the Spring of 2016, we will be pushing our passion to the brink, and pushing supersonic speeds at Diamond Valley. Ed Shadle intends to set a new land speed record, and Jessi Combs will become the fastest woman on the Earth.
Over the next six months, we will be making massive strides towards a digital cloud, that will give us the tools to push the boundaries of speed. With support from Microsoft and Dassault Systemes, we will be building cloud-based aerodynamic analysis tools, giving us immediate feedback to the vehicle, so that a supercomputer is no longer required.
The support that we have seen from the public has been tremendous, and we do not believe there is a way to truly show our gratitude. That is why, with the help of Lenovo and the Microsoft Azure platform, we will be live streaming the next record attempt. A new generation of ThinkPads from Lenovo will give us unprecedented power in the field when it comes to pushing the boundaries, and sharing that journey with you and thousands of others.
We still need your help to make this possible, so we ask that you spread the word. As an all volunteer team, support through donations is always welcome (http://bit.ly/naedonate), and we encourage any companies interested in being a part of this historic once-in-a-lifetime project to reach out through our website (http://www.landspeed.com/contact-us).
What we are looking to do may seem immense, or perhaps beyond reach. The truth is that it will be difficult, but this is not just a team of dreamers. This is a team of do-ers, individuals who have a passion for doing what may at first seem impossible, but becomes more real with every passing day. Where this will take us, we dare to wonder, to venture there. This is From Speed to Sound, join us over the next six months on our journey to writing history.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends”
Photo Credit: Eric Wittler