Before we get started, both hardcover and Kindle versions of my new book are available on Amazon.com. Go buy one and maybe 30 or 40 for your friends family, and even people you don’t know and/or like.
In my Kickstarter newsletter I learned of the Saturn 5 Relaunch Project and it got me thinking of the long lost days where all I had to worry about was stupid stuff like model rockets. I think anyone that built more than one rocket has a story of catastrophic failure. Hell, it’s like NASCAR, the crashes are the true spectacle. Even more surprising is that you can check out the back catalogs over at the Estes site. I was able to track down my very own Comanche 3. I laughed out loud at the catalogs from the Eighties, many rockets being dead ringers for military munitions, the RPG looking like you could scare the crap out of anyone with it. I had repaired a Big Boy that had a missle paint job and still remember everyone running like hell away from the launch pad as it only went up about 15 feet and then started to do circles towards the rest of the Boy Scout Troop.
The real big dog though was the Comanche 3.This rocket is absurd. Most of the rockets of the time were single stage, and there were some 2 stage. A “D” engine would get rolled out now and then for some of the huge models (engines are rated A-D (or at least were as I remember) with the A being about 2 inches long and about as wide as an extra fat pencil. The D was like a toilet paper roll). This is yet again one of the joys of pre-litigation society, when you could give 12 year old kids toys that spray flame and fly around looking for the nearest eyeball to poke out.
The Comanche takes it to the extreme, a three stage starting with a D and that kicking off a C and a third C. The big kicker is that the big engines were often used for huge models, in this case the rocket was about as small as it could be. It’s like that Darwin award story about the Jet Engine strapped to the car, if you had 3 jet engines on the car.
Unlike the Saturn 5 guys I did not have a catastrophic crash, instead it worked as it should. In a split second it was so far up in the sky that it went from a tiny speck to invisible. I got the first stage back and never found anything else. I have no doubt that if it’s not still in orbit, it did reach escape velocity and I’m waiting for it to return, self aware, calling itself V’ger, or for some alien with a glowing finger to drop it off on my front porch.
Tonight I raise a glass to the model rocket builders and their quest for learning, engineering, and the pure thrill of lighting the fuse and not knowing what’s going to happen next.