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Sun, Oct 09, 2005

Kids Say The Darndest Things At X-Cup Event

Blast Whaaaat?

As part of X-Prize Education Day, volunteer docents from the National Association for Rocketry (NAR) were teaching kids how to launch model rockets.

"This is recovery wadding," said one of the volunteers.

"It looks like toilet paper!"

"It looks just like toilet paper. But it's different. Do you know what's different about it?"


"It's flame resistant. That means it won't be set on fire when we use it in a rocket. Regular toilet paper would be set on fire."

"Grrrrrreat," a woman standing next to our reporter murmured. "Now my kids have learned something. They can set the toilet paper afire."

The children had already been through the museum, and they didn't show a great deal of deference to their mentors.

A docent was explaining the countdown that would be used.

"5, 4, 3, 2, 1 --"

"Blastoff!" one boy shouted.

The docent, a gentleman of retirement age, wearing a National Association of Rocketry cap, bristled. "I know they say that in cartoons, but in NASA we don't say 'blastoff.' It's too much like an explosion. We don't want an explosion, we want the rocket to lift off cleanly and fly!"

"So, do you say, 'lift-off'?" another honor student asked.

"No, because at the end of the count-down you usually have ignition, not lift-off. On NASA rockets, there is usually a pause between ignition and lift-off. These model rockets will lift-off right away."

The "blast-off" boy, who'd been pouting ever since he was corrected, spoke up. "Inside, in the museum, they said 'blast-off.'"

"Now, am I here teaching you, or are you teaching me? I'm a retired NASA engineer, I ought to know what they say at NASA."

The boy resumed pouting.

"Hey, I drove all the way from Colorado Springs to teach you to launch rockets. Do you want to launch rockets?"

At this point, all the kids, including "blast-off" boy, eagerly agreed and the lesson got back on track.

The kids put the wadding in and packed the chutes. There was a line of launch pads and rods (model rockets are usually stabilized through the first foot or two of flight by a tubular lug sliding on a metal rod) and later, the kids got to do their own countdowns and push their own buttons.

But we didn't stay to watch. You see, we had to blast off...



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