Launching a Rocket in My Father's Honor, 40 Years Later
Near the the end of the Apollo space missions of the early 1970s, my father—an aerospace engineer from Johnson City, New York—began work on his own Saturn V (the massive vehicle that brought men to the surface of the moon). Even at 1/100 scale, the Centuri Saturn V was the grand daddy of all model rockets—at almost 4 feet high it was as tall as me at the time. The kit had hundreds of separate parts that took my dad months (my mom remembers it as YEARS) to meticulously cut, glue, sand, and paint.'>
When he finally finished, he brought the whole family out to an open field. We counted down, and my mom had the honor of pushing the button. The rocket shot 500 feet into the sky...but the chutes failed to deploy and we watched in horror as it plummeted—nose first—back to earth. Dad's Saturn V was destroyed and I've never forgotten.
Front view, side view, rear view of my dad's Saturn V with launch pad, 1973.
My father passed away a few years ago, and I recently discovered his launch pad in the attic—along with dozens of snapshots of the original launch. I am a father now as well, and it struck me that this was the first time I remember seeing him fail at ANYTHING. It reminded me of a time when our fathers were omnipotent; when any dispute with the kid down the block could be settled with "I'll ask my dad."
Dad prepping the rocket and liftoff!, 1973.