Confessions of a Rocket Scientist
Friday, July 30, 2004
  Paper Moon
Is everybody as disappointed in the Democratic Convention as I am?
I'm not putting down Kerry. Truth to tell I rather like the guy, and being a Vietnam veteran myself I feel a kinship with him. He hit just about all of my hot-buttons when he gave the acceptance speech, and I feel that for the first time in a long time I can cast a vote without holding my nose.
But something was missing. Space.
When the hell is this country going to get a real space program again? And when the hell are we going to get a president that does more than pay lip service to space?
I know all of the arguments against space. Its too risky. We need the money here. What are we getting for it. Blah blah blah.
Too risky? Yeah, too risky. We lost two space shuttles already, and fourteen people. That's too risky.
News flash - we will lose a lot more than fourteen souls today on our nation's highways. Does anybody call this a disaster? Do we close down the highways and prohibit automobile travel every time a car gets in an accident? Yes, there are a lot of risks in space travel, but it has a better safety record than any other transportation scheme known to man, including walking.
We need the money here. Let me ask you a question, bunky. Just where the hell do you think the money we spend on space is being spent? Do we send a check to some aliens in Roswell? Surprise, it gets spent right here on planet Earth, on real materials and real salaries for real people. And these people spend the money they make right here on earth, which makes more jobs and more money for even more people. And think about this. We have been cutting NASA's budget since 1970 and putting the money into social programs. Tell me, has this resulted in a lower number of people dependent on government handouts? Has this enhanced the quality of life for the inner city? The truth is, the money has largely been spent to line the pockets of greedy bureaucrats who award huge study grants to their cronies. America, we was robbed! And we are continuing to be robbed every day this farce continues.
I really have to laugh when some spoiled yuppie spawn tells me that space hasn't done a thing for us. This moron usually has a cell phone, cable TV, satellite radio, and a bunch of PC's. If it wasn't for space, we would still be spending ten bucks a minute to make a transatlantic telephone call and would have to wait several hours for the operator to place the call because all ten lines of the transatlantic cable are in use and there are several callers ahead of us.
So I am disappointed in the convention. I really want an aggressive space program with real goals and real timetables. This is how we got to the moon. I want a real program with a real commitment from the president, not a half-hearted politically motivated call from the shrub to "return to the moon" and "explore Mars."
So how about it, folks? Will John Kerry follow the lead of another famous JFK from Massachusetts, who inspired us with the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely by the end of the century? Or will we get another paper promise?
I'm tired of getting a paper moon.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
  RIP David "Ducky" Klouser
A good friend of mine just died.  His name was Dave Klouser.  His friends (and a lot of his enemies) called him "Ducky."  I don't know where he got that nickname.

Ducky was a fellow rocketeer.  He was a NAR competitor and a champion several times.  His claim to fame was in boost gliders, but he also snagged a championship for helicopter recovery.  And he had been a member of the USA International Team.

Ducky was a really intense competitor.  He would give you the benefit of his knowledge and experience and ask nothing in return except perhaps some of yours.  He was also generous with his time, especially when it came to introducing newcomers to the hobby.  But on the field of competition watch out!  He was fierce, with no quarter asked and none given.

Ducky founded the NAR section I belong to, PARA.  He mostly formed it to have a venue for competition, but he also wanted to get some local people interested in flying.

Ducky was not always a pleasant person, especially in his later years.  He was a very annoying person, sometimes quite dictatorial in his style, and given to complaining about and over-reacting to some very minor incidents.  We didn't know it at the time, but it was the beginning of his disease.

Ducky suffered from something called Semantic Dementia (SD).  You can read about it here.  He had been fighting this disease for a long time when he died, just one day short of his 49th birthday.  That is way to young to die.

As far as I know, he passed away at home with his family.  He left behind two brothers and his parents.  I felt kind of bad because I had a doctor's appointment the day of his funeral, at exactly the same time.  But maybe this is better.  I never saw Ducky in the later stages of his disease.  My memories of him are those of a vigorous man flying his beloved boost gliders.

I am sure that Ducky is now conversing with G. Harry Stine and the other great rocketeers who have gone before us.  And I have a sneaky feeling that, should I be fortunate enough to pass through the Pearly Gates, that Ducky will be there, organizing a competition.  I plan to beat the pants off him in parachute duration.

Rest in peace, old friend
Thursday, July 15, 2004
  First Post - BFD
By way of introduction, my name is Bill Sullivan. I have been building and flying model rockets since age 13. I am currently 52. So just why does an otherwise sane middle-aged engineer spend so many afternoons burning holes in the sky? Why don't I do something more normal, like plopping myself in front of the tube with a beer in hand to watch a bunch of millionaires lose a ball game? Or why don't I invest about five grand in a set of golf clubs and pay about three hundred bucks a pop to chase a little white ball around the country club and curse at my obvious ineptitude? Beats me. All I can say is, I love the smell of burning propellent in the morning. It smells like...well, like rocket exhaust!

I am currently a member of the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and the Philadelphia Area Rocketry Association (PARA) I try to get out for most of the summertime club launches.

I was recently sidelined for about two years when I found out I had colon cancer. I got treated successfully with chemo, radiation, and surgery. Just last week I managed to get out for my first launch since my surgery. What follows ia my flight report.

First flight was an Aerospace Specialties WAC Corporal flying on an Estes C11-3. As I discovered, this delay time was too short. The chute deployed while the rocket was still coasting upward. The shock cord separated at the mount. I managed to recover both the nose cone and the airframe.

Second flight was my homebrew design, a cluster of four mini-motors I call Cheap Thrills. I flew it on four A4-6T's. I had successful ignition of all four motors. Chute deployed at apogee and the bird drifted down close to the pad. Good flight.

My third flight was another cluster, this time a Custom Rockets Landviper flying on 3 Estes C6-7's. Again, I had successful ignition of all three motors and a successful recovery. THis time it drifted past the crest of a hill and landed in the low corn. Next month this corn will be a lot taller. I had best invest in a beeper or two.

Fourth and final flight was the maiden launch of my LOC Viper III which I have finished in a patriotic motif (red and blue with white stars). This one has been cristened Betsy Ross by my Dear Wife (who tolerates my rocketry hobby). I flew it on a cluster of three Estes E9-8's. I got more than a few worried looks from the RSO about the long delay time, but he relented and let me load her up. All three motors ignited and Betsy Ross leaped off the pad. Hey, a cluster of three E's is a sight to behold, full of fire and smoke. It flew high and deployed the chutes just as it was arcing over. I got a lot of applause from that flight.

That was my last flight. I had two more birds prepped including another cluster, but I must save these for next month. I will probably prep Betsy Ross for another flight, but I really want to fly her sister, A LOC IV that I call Liberty Belle. This one is prepped with two E9-8's and two D12-0's. This flight should be awesome!

Ad Astra!
The continuing story of a man, his hobby, and the search for a really good cup of coffee.

"The first cup of coffee in the morning recapitulates Phylogeny." -J. Pournelle

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Location: Quakertown, Pennsylvania, United States

Two time cancer survivor, happily married, LaSalle Alumnus

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