[This is a guest post from my friend, Robert Pohl, about his recent venture to a rocket launch at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.]
Remember those model rockets you had growing up? The whoosh of the engines, the frantic squinting needed to follow the trajectory of the flight? The pop at apogee? The descent slowed by a parachute? The frustration as the whole shebang sailed right into a tree?
Well, you can relive that all today (well, if today is the first Sunday of the month) and, this being D.C., you can do so in NASA’s back yard.
Model rocketry has been a sport since Sputnik was hurled into the sky by the Soviet Union in 1957. Technology has improved since then, but the basic parts of a rocket are the same now as then: An engine, an igniter, a body, a cap, and some method for slowing the rocket when it comes back down to earth.
The only really crucial element is a nice open field that allows for a safe recovery of the rocket. This is where NARHAMS and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center come in. NARHAMS is the local affiliate of NAR, the National Association of Rocketry. The have been flying rockets since 1965, and are thus the oldest continuously operating rocket club in the United States. Once a month, they bring their equipment – and expertise – to NASA Goddard, to shoot off any rockets their members – or interested friends – bring along.
The event is free and open to all, no need to bring a rocket. In fact, if you come sans rocket, and the scene makes you want to join right in, Goddard’s gift shop has all the pieces necessary to make a rocket, and get it off the ground. Even more importantly, there are always NARHAMS members there who will check your rocket before launch to make sure it has been put together correctly. In short, this is as painless and fun a way of getting into model rocketry as you can imagine.
And if model rockets just are not enough, you also can visit Goddard’s visitor center and see exhibits about the rockets and payloads that they have been building there since 1959.
The next model rocket launch will be this Sunday, March 2, at 1pm. The shoot is scheduled to last one hour, but they will not be done until everyone who wants has had a chance to fire off a rocket. Just go to the Goddard Visitor Center on ICESat Road, off Greenbelt Road (just after the main entrance for Goddard) Turn left into the visitor center parking lot. The rocket shoot is on the other side of the visitor center.