rockets, astrophotography and other unearthly pursuits


I have a thing for rockets. Actually, I’ve had a thing for rockets for a very long time.

Today, I am what other rocket hobbyist’s refer to as a BAR: a Born Again Rocketeer. Most BARs are men — and some women too — in their 50s, 60s and 70s, who grew up during the space race or its immediate aftermath, and enthusiastically launched little cardboard and balsa model rockets from school fields across the country. Most, including myself, eventually got distracted by girls, or boys, cars, college, jobs, marriage and family, and left the hobby in our late teens or twenties.

A few, thank goodness, didn’t, and in dry lakes in the southwest, ranches in Colorado, cornfields in the Midwest and farmers’ fields back east, steadily advanced the hobby and fought a protracted legal battle with the federal government to reclassify the solid fuel motors used to power hobbyist’s rockets as non-explosive, opening the door to bigger and more powerful motors and, naturally, bigger and more powerful rockets. While us yet-to-be-BARs were off doing other things, serious rocket lovers were literally raising the ceiling for the entire hobby.

Then we BARs started trickling back. I came back around 2015 or so. The model rocket hobby has changed, but so have I. The basics are the same: stuff a motor in a rocket built of paper, wood and plastic, launch it in a field, watch it soar up and drift back — all in less than a minute — and do it again.

It’s simple, it’s brief, and it’s oddly intoxicating. But I’ve realized that I can’t easily explain why.

So, I’m hoping to discover that by writing about it.

I’ll start with one simple observation. Getting off the ground, even a little bit, is a pretty easy. Coming back to the ground in one piece? It’s hard.