Arianespace was clearly in the "California groove" today with a very special Santa Monica beach reception to celebrate the company's 30th anniversary.
The highlight of this event - which was attended by Arianespace's U.S. customers from the West Coast and elsewhere in the country - was the handover of a one-of-a-kind guitar to a very unique recipient.
Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall (at left) presents the Arianespace-commissioned guitar to Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.
This guitar was made by Frenchman James Trussart, a long-time California resident, who has produced other musical instruments for the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.
The Arianespace-commissioned guitar was tooled by craftsmen in Paris who previously made parts for the Concorde supersonic jetliner, and its body was sculpted from a piece of an Ariane 5.
At today's reception, Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall presented the guitar to Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, a member of the Doobie Brothers band and a guitarist for Steely Dan - who today has become a recognized expert in matters of missile defense, anti-terrorism and intelligence.
"The decade that saw the rise of Jeff Baxter also saw the rise of the Ariane program," Le Gall said. "In 1979, the same year that the Doobie Brother's 'Minute by Minute' reached the top of the charts, we counted down the minutes, consulted our charts and launched the first Ariane rocket out of French Guiana."
Le Gall noted that as Baxter started his successful musical career, Arianespace was created as a commercial launch sector pioneer.
"At the time, some critics thought the Ariane program - the world's first commercial launch services company - was, to quote [Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan singer] Michael McDonald, 'What a fool believes,'" Le Gall added. "Today we are the most successful launch services company in existence. And today we salute our customers who, with good reason, believe in our product and our services. We look forward to serving you in the decades to come."
Baxter thanked Le Gall for the unique guitar, adding that the art of the human being is what makes technology come alive.
"This can be the art of someone being able to design a rocket to go to outer space, or someone who can take an inert element of the Earth and turn it into an object that can let someone practice their art," Baxter said. "I am very touched because, to me, this is all those things - art, technology, craftsmanship, music - all rolled into one. And that's what makes the human race special. As we explore the stars, as we explore the universe, we bring the art with us wherever we go."
After Le Gall's handover of the guitar, Baxter joined other professional and amateur musicians - including those from Boeing and the Society of Satellite Professionals International - to perform for the invited guests, playing the Doobie Brothers' signature songs: "Long Train Running" and "China Grove," as well as Wilson Picket's "In the Midnight Hour."