National rocket launch was an exciting spectacle

LDRS 38 brought hundreds of high-powered rocketry enthusiasts to the Argonia Rocket Pasture. A group from St. Louis built and launched a “Marvin the Martian” rocket. Kara Carter took it for a test ride.

By Sam Jack
Times-Sentinel Newspapers

“Five, four, three, two, one – launch.”

That call went out across the Argonia Rocket Pasture hundreds of times on Sunday, Sept. 1, the second-to-last day of Tripoli Rocketry Association’s national high-powered launch, LDRS 38.

It went out for rockets hardly larger than a pencil (one rocket literally was a pencil), and for rockets so huge that one could mistake them for cellular towers looming out on the horizon.

Some of the rockets in the former category struggled to elevate themselves 20 feet. At least one in the latter category soared in excess of 40,000 feet and could have dented any 747s in the vicinity – hence the special clearance the local Kloudbusters club had to secure from the FAA.

Hobbyists prepare their rockets for a round of launches. There were more than 70 launch pads spread out across the pasture.

The day had a definite “boys and their toys” vibe: Rockets had names like “Separate Checking Account” and “Burn Money, Have Fun.” Perhaps four out of five rocketeers were men, though some of the most ambitious projects were created by women.

When the bigger rockets launched, you could feel the sound and vibration in your chest. At the same time, you’d see a pillar of brown, grey or white smoke leap with shocking speed from ground to clouds, or past the clouds and into the clear blue sky.

The land around the Rocket Pasture is nearly devoid of trees and other obstacles, but what hazards there were inevitably attracted rockets. By the end of the launch, the electric line on the pasture’s north edge was festooned with half a dozen of them, hanging from their parachute cords.

Near the middle of the spectator area was the St. Louis Rocketry Association’s encampment. There, starting early in the morning and continuing well into the afternoon., men in matching “Kaboom Krewe” T-shirts swarmed around a huge, oddly-shaped rocket, completing an extensive list of preparations in order to “send Marvin the Martian back to his home planet.”

In fittingly cartoonish fashion, the 500-pound rocket carved a looping flight path. Its creators had intended it to fly straight up, yet the flight was by no means a failure. Two large black parachutes successfully deployed and gave Marvin a soft landing.

Kloudbusters is planning two more launches at the Rocket Pasture this year, Oct. 12-13 and Nov. 9-10. For more information, visit www.kloudbusters.org.

Bradley Smith totes his rocket, which he dubbed “My Majestic Mega Magg Mad Minion Mars Mission Mothership.”
Chris Harris, a member of the Tripoli Houston rocketry club, operates a computer and radio system that uses GPS to track the trajectories and landing locations of high-altitude rockets.