Last sunday Sarah and I joined a bunch of friends at James A. Bible park to shoot off rockets. You see our friends Brad and Mijon are moving away, and before that happened Brad wanted to make sure to set off his model rocket in the city in which it was made. Admirable. I had never launched rockets before, so the whole experience made me feel like I was 12 years old (afterwards we went to Sonic for some cool treats because I behaved well). Our friend Keith even brought along a boom box so we could listen to the mix cd he made entirely of songs about rockets. A recipe for awesomeness.

Although it was a hoot and a holler, my poor rocket did not fare so well. I was so excited because I had bought one that had a camera in the nose. The idea was that once the nose popped off and the parachute came out, the camera would release an exposure button, taking a picture of (hopefully) us on the ground below. However something went wrong with the wadding I had placed between the engine and parachute, so when the parachute released it separated from the rest of the rocket, failing to perform its job, and scattering the pieces to the four winds.

Another miscalculation owing to my inexperience was the trajectory angle of my rocket (as indicated in the picture on the left). You see the day had been relatively free of wind up until just before we shot off our rockets. Common sense would dictate that you should either wait till the wind dies down or abandon the launch till the next day. But we were not commonly sensical. We had to launch those rockets, and we had to launch them now! I angled my rocket to go into the wind, hoping that in so doing it would come back to me on the way down and I would catch it and have a little rocket dance. I forgot my sextant, though, and therefore miscalculated the proper angle.

My rocket fired at the first try. I was glad and relieved because I did not want to let my audience down. Towards its summit the rocket’s trajection looked strangely horizontal. This worried me because it looked to be headed for a group of families watching a game of lacrosse. Watching the parachute refusing its intended purpose worried me increasingly. As the headless, parachuteless rocket touched down in the distance I felt a little relief as no one seemed to be hurt. Sarah hired some kids that had been watching our rocketeering to find the rocket and its mangled parts for a quarter each. They only came back with the rocket body (which came down like a brick) and the parachute (which, thank the heavens above, landed quite gently). The nose and, more importantly, the picture contained within were nowhere to be found, and you know I wasn’t about to go over there and face those people.

Still it was a great time, and I have to congratulate the other rocketeers for their more successful attempts. Hopefully next time I’ll have learned a lesson or two.


Listening to "Come on! Feel the Illinoise! -Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition -Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream"
from the album Illinoise
by Sufjan Stevens