Archive for Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A perfect day for a launch

4-H members shoot handmade rockets into sky

August 18, 2004

It was a good day for a rocket launch.

Winds were minimal Friday morning at Leavenworth County Fairgrounds. Temperatures were in the 70s. And there was a crowd of several dozen 4-H'ers and plenty of onlookers.

The thing about rocketry is this: No matter how much time a child spends building a rocket, painting it and applying decals, no matter how much expertise goes into the technical details, such as inserting the engines -- you just never know what the rockets are going to do.

It was an "October Sky" kind of moment when a rocket, about two feet tall, did something of a backward handstand and spiraled into the ground, shocking onlookers who had been prepared to see it zip hundreds of feet into the air.

Other rockets proved more successful, giving the children a chance to burn off calories as they raced across the field to catch the remains.

Some rockets floated down gracefully, beneath an open parachute.

And some darted back to the earth, their chutes unopened, or totally separated from the craft.

Tyler Gonser had that kind of an experience.

"My two-stage engine didn't do very good," Tyler said. "Part of it blew out."

Despite the setback, Tyler, who also builds rockets and launches them with his family, was pleased.

"Rocketry is really fun," he said.

Another rocketeer, Richie Ridihalgh, is also glad he participated in the rocket project -- even though his launch didn't go as planned.

"Mine went up really high, but the problem was the parachute got wrapped up," Richie said.

And, he was glad the enthusiastic bunch of children was able to catch his rocket before it hit the ground, which saved it from destruction.

Next year Richie plans to join the rocketry brigade again -- with more power.

"This year I got a stage one engine, but next year I'll probably get a stage two or three," he said.

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