3 year old + compressed gunpowder + ballistics = "Science"

Rocket Science: Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving home in a complete funk. After a long week, and a particularly bad day, I had gone beyond my normal pleasant running state of 'crotchety'. Saying I was 'a little cranky' is about like saying 'Topsy,' my grandmother's nineteen year old, one-eyed, three-toothed toy fox terrier was 'a little twitchy.' Which was a hell of a way to start the weekend.

In an effort to snap out of my funk, I stopped off on the way home at the local model shop, which isn't much more than a house with the bottom two floors jammed full of every remote control vehicle you could possible imagine. I've never really desired a remote control dirigible, but it's comforting to know that if I ever do, I know where to get it.

Instead, I settled for the Estes Model Rocket Starter Kit. I haven't put together a model rocket in almost a hundred years, and I figured it was about time I started to teach the Critter something approaching science. Rockets are science. That's why they use the phrase "it's not rocket science"... except in this case, it is.

Besides, my learning retention was always way higher when
the science:put-your-eye-out factor is >0.

I whipped the rocket out when I got home and the Critter's eyes lit up in just the way I anticipated.

My Bride's eyes lit up as well, but in a whole different way. Turns out, she had never fired a model rocket before either, and wasn't 100% at ease with my assurances that this whole notion of jamming a tube of compressed gunpowder and an ignitor up a plastic tube on a coat hanger was really a good intro to science.

"Trust me," I said.

Despite that, we got the rocket out into the pasture between the house and the river and got set up. (River. Remember that.) Ella was very keen to make sure every thing was set up 'properly' as she says, but having watched Buzz & Woody strap a giant firecracker to their back a few dozen times, decided to remain a comfortable distance away from the rocket itself and just direct me in how to set it up.

It took a number of trials to get the engine to actually light up. I had forgotten how fickle those little electrical igniters can be. I burned through a half dozen before we actually achieved lift off. But finally, we did get a spark, and the rocket shot off several hundred feet into the air, before deploying its parachute. I didn't get a picture of this in all the excitement, of course.

I did however get a picture of the river. Remember the river?

Yeah. The wind picked up the parachute and blew that little rocket right over the river. And over the ridgeline. And as far as I know, it ended up someplace in the North Sea.

Ella thought it was hilarious.

To console ourselves, we went and ate at the Chinese bakery. Mung bean paste makes me happy.

I was undeterred, and went out and bought more rockets. (You can too - go here!) This time, they came with balsa fins, and sheets of decals, and were the kind you had to actually put together and paint.

More on that later.