One small purchase for a man, one not-so-giant leap for mankind

When I was in high school, I had model rockets. I wasn’t involved as heavily as I would have liked to have been, but I enjoyed them the times I did get to launch them, and even used them for a science project at one point.

I still had my launch pad and equipment after college, and always meant to do something with it, but at some point I misplaced it or simply threw it away.

I still thought about model rockets, though, occasionally looking at the kits in Walmart or at toy stores. Earlier this summer, when I was at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., I looked at the kits in the gift shop, and even got to watch one of the gift shop employees do a demonstration.

What tipped things, however, was a week or two ago on Late Show with David Letterman, when Letterman was joking about launching a model rocket with his young son.

I found an inexpensive starter kit available for the same price either from Amazon or at the Walmart web site (the local store doesn’t seem to carry model rocketry stuff anymore). It won’t be in until next week, and I don’t know how soon I’ll get the chance to try it. I may see if my brother and my in-county nephews want to join me. I’ve already asked Billy Hix, who I know uses model rocketry in some of his science education programs, for some suggestions about where to go.

The starter kit includes a prefab rocket with plastic fins and snap-together assembly. I’d love eventually to get one of the old-school kits, where you have to glue the balsa wood fins onto the cardboard tube using Elmer’s glue, and then paint and decorate the rocket to suit yourself. I did not order the engines at the same time as the starter kit, and I may stop by a toy-and-hobby store in Murfreesboro next week when I’m in town to see what they have. (I didn’t want to purchase the starter kit there because it would have been twice as much.)

Yes, I did turn 50 a few months ago. What of it?