Friday, March 26, 2010

Rocketry Update

I was driving Finn home from the dentist awhile ago when I decided to stop by the grove of trees in which the rocket became ensnared, high above the ground. The winds the last few days have been very strong and I figured the nose cone, at least, was rent free from the parachute and perhaps on the ground. If I could find the tree with the day-glo parachute still in it, I could scour the ground below.

I drove up the hill and not a few feet into the woods and barely five feet off the ground was a small hawthorn tree with a piece of bright orange plastic in it. Dangling from that was the nose cone. We can fix this with a little glue and some patience.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Rocketry

For his birthday we gave Finn an Estes model rocket kit. He had one last summer that was kinda lame, so I went overboard and got one with a rocket that goes to 1000 ft. or more with the proper engine.

It being a beautiful spring day, we gathered his friend and the kit into the car, and went to Beacon's Memorial Park to learn a little about Newton's laws of motion, maybe wax nostalgic about Robert Goddard and Werner von Braun.

Nah, they just wanted to hear the blast of the engine and chase after the falling rocket.

I set up for the first launch and shot it off myself to demonstrate to the boys how to use the ignition. The successful blastoff and climb was followed by the rocket falling precipitously from the sky. Why didn't the parachute work?

When I recovered it, I discovered that I had not packed enough wadding in, and the ejection stage of the rocket indeed popped off the nose cone and deployed the parachute, but the heat of the blast fused the folded plastic parachute to itself. It fell gently enough, and the rocket was ready for another flight, but I wanted to get it as right as I could.

I packed more fireproof wadding in the fuselage this time, pulled apart the parachute as best I could, and packed it back in despite a few holes and deformed patches. We were ready for a second flight, so I let the boys push the two buttons (a safety and a final switch).



It sailed a little off the vertical and out of sight but for the contrail. Then we saw a bright, orange parachute deploy properly, and the rocket drifted down slowly, as it was supposed to.

Except for that pesky westerly breeze. It drifted farther and father over some woods, and caught in a tree, finally.

The tree was too thin and weak to climb, so doing what I used to do as a kid, I shook it. The fuselage broke free of the shock cord and fell.

Finn's not as upset as he looks, trust me. He knows we have another rocket, and we can repair this one with a new nose cone & parachute.
I remember all of my brothers were into model rocketry when I was little. Tony, especially, organized all his equipment carefully and I remember witnessing a few launches.

Next time we either find more space, smaller engines, or a still day.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Books Of Bokonon, 1:2-4

Man blinked. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.

"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.

"Certainly," said man.

"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.

And He went away.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Fine" Means Anything But

Have you ever noticed that just about any time you use this word as an answer to a question it carries a charge of disgust?