|Grandpa's bad rocket|
|Cael's good rocket|
The only problem is the rockets — depending on the weather, the wind, the craftsmanship and the battery power — are unpredictable.
You never know for sure if, at the end of an enthusiastic countdown, the rocket will sputter and shoot off or if it'll just sit there, disappointing the crowd and the builder.
My brothers launched rockets when they were younger and my oldest son today puts on little shows for elementary school classes.
I remember my dad trying to help insure a successful blast-off by wiring the rocket to the car battery.
We had rockets that took off into outer space never to be seen again.
We also had a box full of pieces left after the rocket blew up or simply came apart for no apparent reason.
So when we took 5-year-old Cael to the park for a rocket launching we knew it was a gamble.
We had just spent part of a day in northern Utah where we had two brilliant launches and two complete duds for unimpressed grandchildren.
This was a chance to figure out what went wrong.
We headed to the park by a nearby elementary school. The sun was out. The winds were calm.
We handed Cael a green and yellow rocket and showed him how to press the ignition button on grandpa's command.
We taught him the countdown procedure. 10-9-8... and we were a "Go!"
The rocket took to the sky and looped over a little to the west. The parachute deployed and Cael and Marc ran over to catch it.
Success. Easy Peasy.
But the next try didn't go as well. The pretty little red and yellow rocket refused to lift off.
Marc tried new igniters. He adjusted the launchpad and wiring. He cussed.
Cael got restless and started looking over at the playground equipment nearby.
Then Marc decided to try a fresh battery and that worked!
The rocket flared and flew way up high, so high it couldn't be seen for a few minutes. Then it came down, fast and straight with no parachute out and no way to stop it.
It appeared to head into the nearby yard so we trooped over to find it.
We peered through the holes in the fence and into the trees.
We couldn't see it.
We walked around to the street and the house's front yard. I wrote a note explaining our plight and Marc stuck it in the door.
Then I saw a few pieces of red rocket on the side driveway.
It had a broken nosecone and part of the body blown out. (Apparently the engine was too big or Marc had forgotten to pack in the wadding. He swears he remembered.)
Back at the launch site we discovered a hole burnt into the metal launch plate. Wow.
Marc and I discovered a new appreciation for science and its rules.
Cael decided it's important to back the "good" rocket!