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Amateur rocketeers seek flights of glory

November 19, 1995
Web posted at: 8:40 a.m. EST

From Freelance Reporter J.J. Green

CULPEPPER, Virginia (CNN) -- It's a hobby that requires a lot of can-do spirit and a love for the exploration of the heavens. For two days, kids, and kids who look suspiciously much older than 12, were testing their fire power in rural Culpepper County, Virginia.

Amateur rocketeers brought out the right stuff to the launch pads with rockets as small as 12 inches long and weighing 2 pounds to 8-foot monsters with solid rocket boosters, just like NASA uses.

Dozens of people from as far away as New York came to show off their handiwork on a chilly weekend. "Should go up really nice," a rocketeers says. "It's got three parachutes in it."

There are no payloads, but the return for Dave Webber and his son is usually a big payoff, because it's a joint venture, from launch to recovery.

It's also an opportunity for women astronaut hopefuls, to bond with dad. And it's a time for some to show off their stuff and possibly blast off into history some day.

Tom Dietz of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum came expressly for that purpose. "We're always looking for things that represent the popular culture of aviation and aerospace, and this kind of activity certainly is a good example of that," Dietz says.

With the Federal Aviation Administration clearing a 15,000 foot flight ceiling, the sky was the limit.

rocket Some of the rockets have unique designs. "My son said that it was really turning out to be a cheesy-looking rocket, so we though we (would) call it the 'Cheesemiester,'" a dad says.

This hobby has a lot of ups and downs, and that can mean some big bucks when your creation takes a nose-dive. But most say they're into the skyward quest for the mere experience of soaring, if only for one brief moment.



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