Fireworks are illegal in New Jersey, but I wanted to do something festive on the Fourth of July. Launching a model rocket seemed like the next best thing to lighting firecrackers. It’s not a particularly American activity, but lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner do include a line about rockets bursting in air. I know it was a bit of a stretch, but if one needs a reason to launch a model rocket, I think that is as good as any.
I went to a craft store to purchase the model rocket. There were about 10 models for sale. Most of them were pre-assembled. All you had to do was insert an engine and watch it blast off. While that would be easy, it didn’t seem like much of a New Experience. No, building it would be half the fun. So, I had a choice of three rockets to buy. The first one was about $15 and said it went 250 feet in the air. The second was $20 and could go 700 feet in the air. The third, called the Taser, was $23 and had the capability of reaching a height of 1100 feet in the air. Now, I am no rocket scientist, but I am a smart shopper. The Taser might have been the most expensive, but it was clearly the best deal. It went over 4 times as high as the cheapest rocket for only an additional $8.
I walked out of the store feeling like I scored a great deal. However, on the ride home, I started to have second thoughts. 1,100 feet in the air is higher than the Chrysler Building is tall. Peeking inside the box at the cardboard tube and plastic nose, I began to doubt that this thing could really go as high as it claimed.
I kept my doubts to myself as we started to assemble the rocket in my parents’ backyard. The kids were so excited to get started. My dad was the lead rocket builder while Luke, Leah, and I assisted. I love my dad, but he is not exactly the most patient person when following directions. Luke and Leah like to tattle on him whenever he says “bad words” like “Stupid” and “Piece of Crap”. By their estimate, he must have said those phrases at least a dozen times. I was beginning to think that he didn’t believe this rocket would launch at all.
It took us longer than I expected to assemble the model. The kids became distracted, and they drifted between building the rocket, eating potato chips,playing by the pool, and coming back to build the rocket. Once we were finally finished, we walked to a nearby park to launch the flimsy contraption.
We were all shocked when Leah and I pushed the buttons to launch it. It took off with a dramatic pop and hiss and zoomed into the air. All of us, adults and children alike, were in shock. It really did rocket out of sight! The parachute inside the rocket came into view and appeared to be drifting down when we all lost sight of it at the same time. We waited a moment, expecting it to slowly drift down, but it disappeared.
We spent time searching the park, looking in tree tops and bushes, hoping to find the little parachute. To the kids’ great disappointment, we never did. Luke is convinced it is still orbiting the earth.
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