When I was a a freshman in high school, I went through a phase where I was really in to Estes model rockets.  I loved those things!  I had an entire set up with multiple rockets and all.  I had a remote activated launch pad that made me feel like I was mission control, and I even had a shuttle-shaped rocket.  I had little rockets and big rockets.  I had one’s that glided to the ground and I had one’s that parachuted to the ground.  It was a lot of fun.  I hope one day that my son, Jeremiah, is in to something like that.  You know, a hobby that we can do together.

Well anyway, one day my dad, my brother, and I all went to the local elementary school to launch a rocket. This was back when elementary schools actually let the public use the playground and recess fields. Nowadays, the public schools are ironically closed to the public with 6 foot high fences around the entire perimeter. So anyway, it was a nice, overcast, Florida afternoon at the elementary school. We chose that location because there was plenty of space. I could launch a rocket and then go and retrieve it from across the field.

On this particular day, we were set to launch a special rocket that deployed a GI Joe action figure from the aircraft and allowed him to parachute to the ground. My brother loaned us the GI Joe, and I securely attached the parachute. It was going to be great. The launch went flawlessly. The rocket soared into the air. And then, at just the right moment, the rocket deployed the GI Joe, parachute and all. And that’s when it happened. You see, on this particular day, we neglected to account for one thing…the wind. As the rocket fell harmlessly to the ground, the GI Joe drifted farther and farther away as the wind took him across the field, over the tree line, and beyond our eyesight. The GI Joe was gone forever. It was a bittersweet day. The launch was perfect, but we lost the GI Joe. But don’t worry for my brother though, we went to Wal-Mart right away to replace his action figure.

So, the moral of the story is two-fold.  First, it’s good to get out there and try something cool with the people you love.  Aim high… the sky’s the limit.  Second, when you go out to do something big, make sure you plan well.  Expect the wind.

Here’s an interesting video I came across recently. Back in the day, my shuttle-shaped rocket was pretty cool, but the father and son team in the video below actually sent a balloon into space! Now, it’d be really easy to say “Yeah, sure they did (insert a sarcastic phrase here).” I mean, when you let a helium balloon go, it disappears into the sky. Who knows what happens? Well, these guys are different.  They sent a huge balloon into space and tracked it’s journey with an on-board HD video camera and an iPhone (for GPS). Check out the video. These guys dreamed big. And, you should too! Go out there and do something big!

Homemade Spacecraft
from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo
Video from a camera attached to a weather balloon that rose into the upper stratosphere and recorded the blackness of space. Visit www.brooklynspaceprogram.org for all the info.