A couple of months ago, I wrote about beefing up two of my model rockets to increase the likelihood that they would blow up, either on the pad or (better yet) at the summit of their flights. I finally had the right combination of factors line up today to launch them: a clear sunny day, no wind, and Katelin being at home to play Retrieval Monkey, my right-hand primate who chases rockets down after their launch and brings them back for their next journeys.
We launched the smaller grey rocket first. Something went wrong pretty quickly with this one: I suspect one of its fins snapped off under the strain of the larger rocket engines, as it did a couple of quick end-over-end flips then shot off at about a 45 degree angle to the northeast. It cleared a row of houses, but we lost sight of it after that, though we thought we might find it in the road or a front yard when we got over there. I opted not to send Retrieval Monkey after that one right away, since I didn’t want to tire her out too soon.
We then moved onto the larger, black rocket. This is the third modification I have made to this one, and I have launched it at least a dozen times. We racked it up on its launch pad, pushed the button, and got a picture perfect, beautiful flight, straight up, nice parachute deployment, ideal landing in soft grass some 50 yards from the launch pad. I didn’t send Retrieval Monkey after that one either, since it didn’t involve much running or distance, but rather ambled over and recovered it myself.
We decided to give it one more quick launch, and declared that if it survived, it would be entitled to an honorary retirement shelf in my office. Once again, a picture perfect launch, and an optimal parachute deployment. But, then, gusts of wind aloft! Rocket drifting! Run, Retrieval Monkey, Run! I thought we were going to get it, but at the worst possible moment, a gust carried it straight to the top of the tallest tree within a mile radius of our launch site, literally.
There’s no climbing or shaking that one down, so when the wind or rain eventually bring it back to earth, some lucky bypasser will inherit a damned fine rocket, tested and proven worthy under intentionally rigorous conditions. I thought we might find the grey rocket on our way home but, alas, Retrieval Monkey’s tracking sense wasn’t up to the task, so when we made it back to the house, we were rocket-less.
I think I might need to promote Retrieval Monkey to the Dignitary’s Viewing Gallery next time.