Monday, June 9, 2008

Rocket Man

The best thing about the American space program back in the 1960's, was that when ever they had a manned space launch, the nuns would roll a television into the classroom and we would sit and watch history being made. Now, it's not that I didn't appreciate the ramifications of what we were watching, but to me it was a welcome break from the nuns cramming my head full of knowledge.

Even as the United States government was starting its space program back in the 1950's, some of the kids on Ravinia Drive had their own space program. What they would do is get a used Co2 cartridge, then cut the heads off of a bunch of matches and put them down into the cartridge, load the cartridge into a long metal pipe and then light the last match sticking out of the end. The result, usually, was a Co2 cartridge shooting out of the other end of the pipe and traveling up to a quarter of a mile. I tell you this, not so that the more immature of you will run out and try to replicate this, but to warn of the dangers.

The problem with these homemade rockets is that you had absolutely no control over where they went, and once they exited the pipe, we, oops, I mean 'they' never did find the rockets. The worst pre-launch disaster happened one afternoon, while the Co2 cartridge was being prepared. Somebody figured that if they could stuff a few more match heads into the cartridge it would be that much more powerful. The problem was, how to do that. The solution was to get a hammer and a nail from somebody's fathers work-bench, and tap the last match heads in while the cartridge was firmly held in place in a vise. When the kid who volunteered, started to tap, tap, tap, the last of the matches in, KABOOOM!! Flames shot straight up into his face, removing much of his eyebrows and leaving pock marks all over his face where the burning sulfur had hit.

This could have been much worse, and 'those kids' were lucky, especially the boy who got burned. He and his friends concocted a cover story for when his mother asked what happened to his face. They told her it was his acne acting up. His mother probably didn't really believe that, but I think the alternative of hearing the truth might have been too much for her that day.


  1. The names have been deleted to protect the guilty and the innocent.

  2. So, is this why, as mentioned in your blog from last week, you have to go to the doctor to see what's was going on with your face? Did the vice fall on your foot too? It all makes sense now.

  3. I remember trying to make an X-15 Experimental Rocket from items in my mother's "catch-all" kitchen drawer. I think I was about 8 yrears old. Those 1960's Apollo missions certainly did have an impact on the youth of those days. I eventually made a similar rocket from match tops and aluminum foil. When ignited there was a stream of flames that came out the end and it moved about 2 inches on the launching ramp that I made. If I had stayed with this project I probably would be a Rocket Scientist by now.

  4. Was it Russell Bernhardt????