The 40th Anniversary of the Apollo program
This series of commemorative rocket launch flights are staged by FLARE, the Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts. We will launch scale models of both Historic White Sands rocketships, and Apollo era spacecraft.
Apollo 12 commemoration
Sat. Nov. 14th
+ Education Day
Saturday November 14th
Commemoration Event at the Space Museum
Dave Kovar and the members of FLARE joined Col. Mike Mullane to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 12. This took place at the [http://www.nmspacemuseum.org New Mexico Museum of Space History] in Alamogordo. We entertained 200 students from six schools in Las Cruces and Demming, plus about an equal number of adults. We had two guest speakers: Beth Close, from the [http://www.conradawards.org/ Pete Conrad Foundation], and [http://www.mikemullane.com/ Colonel Mike Mullane], retired Shuttle Astronaut.
Dave's hand made launch tower and Saturn V rocket.
This show was the final of our 2008-2009 series of Apollo 40th Anniversary commemorative events. Brainchild of Dave Kovar, this series began on December 21, 2008 with a launch honoring Apollo VIII.
We met the night before to prep all of the rockets and load the club trailer for the event. The weather was a big concern, but this time we got lucky. There were two cold fronts sweeping down from the north. Forecasts for early morning were for winds of 12-16 mph with gusts up to 36 mph. These conditions would require cancellation of all but the student launches.
We all showed up between 7:00 and 7:40 to find perfectly still conditions with fairly heavy cloud cover. We had a little rain around 8:20, but we could see that clearing out over the Valley and so we were not particularly worried. The school buses started rolling in around 8:55, so the start of the show scheduled for 9:00 was pushed back a little so that we could get everyone up to the stage.
Dave Kovar (left), Mike Shinaberry (right), and the Rockets of the Nasa manned space flight program.
Mike Shinaberry has been our narrator for many of the shows. Mike is employed by the Museum as a historian. He is both very knowledgeable and an excellent speaker. The launches went off with two glitches. The launch rack from the NASA rockets was set up backwards, so controller Jim Basler got the first launch out of order. The other incident was rather more serious. Our "big" Little Joe II model, which is a spectacular launch on a G engine, did not deploy it's recovery chute. It plowed into the pavement about 25 feet from the audience. I was the one who built the engine for it the night before. I did not understand that I needed to use all of deployment charge for this large-diameter rocket. I should have asked any of our more experienced rocketeers at the meeting. Little Joe was destroyed. My apologies to Dave, Lee and Michelle who built the rocket, and everyone else who was there. This was a dangerous mistake to make.
Through the series of events we have practiced getting the Saturn V launch just right. Dave's hand-built launch tower has real moving parts. He and [[Russell]] worked together to build the launch base, which includes a welded steel flame trench and motor mounts for pre-ignition simulation motors. These produce smoke and flame which simulate the real deal. You may know that ammonium perchlorate (AP) motors do not light instantaneously. They have to build up sufficient internal pressure before they start generating the flame and smoke attendant to the exhaust of high pressure hot gas. As luck would have it on this, our last launch, everything came off perfectly synchronized to the soundtrack of the original launch. The FLARE crew were almost as stunned as the audience.
After a stunned silence as the rocket ascended, the audience howled with excitement at the spectacle of the launch. I only wish I had better equipment and more people available to capture this.
Colonel Mike Mullane then spoke to the crowd. When he concluded, Dave invited him to push the button for the Space Shuttle launch. As the shuttle ascended I heard Mike ask if the shuttle was a glider. He hooted with delight when the rocket reached apogee and the shuttle detached to begin it's gentle glide back to earth. Colonel Mullane hooted again, and told Dave "If that thing lands in this parking lot, you are a genius!" It very nearly did. The shuttle circled around and came in right toward the audence, veering off a little to the left with a light puff of wind, to land just off the parking lot.
Retired Astronaut Col. Mike Mullane and genius Dave Kovar, following another successful Shuttle mission.
In October, Dave arranged with our local SEMAA and MESA programs for rockets, motors, and transportation to this event. Our volunteers visited the various middle schools and helped the students build their rockets. These were very good kits for this audience. They were Quest kits with molded fin-cans instead of individual balsa fins. When you have 25 or thirty students and about an hour to build, molded fin cans are a very good thing.
Our rocket doctors, as we refer to those who do a safety inspection, last minute repairs, and load the engines for flight, were FLARE members and Air Force volunteers from nearby Holloman AFB.
Holloman sent us fifteen airmen. They did an excellent job helping us out with all aspects of the show. We spent a few hours launching student rockets. We are especially grateful to our Air Force volunteers for the work they did recovering rockets which landed off the parking lot. Although this lot is often used for launches in conjunction with the Space Camp at the museum, the parking area is fronted by a treacherous arroyo which is full of mesquite trees and large cactus. We don't allow the young people in there.
Students with rockets in hand, visiting the "Rocket Doctors" and the launch preparation tables.
We completed the student launches around 2:30 PM, as our volunteers helped us finish loading the trailer and cleaning up the area.
It is very fortunate for all of us that this final event was the closest to perfect we have ever come. It all went of so well that it is still a little hard to believe. Our hats are off to all of the FLARE members, Museum staff, and Air Force volunteers. But most especially to Dave Kovar, who dreamed this whole thing up, and then almost single-handedly pulled it off. Dave did more work than any five of us combined and the program was an unqualified success! —Tokind.