When I was in middle school, I enjoyed building and launching model rockets. Cardboard body tube, balsa fins, plastic nose cone, parachute–with fine strings and elastic shock cord–nestled and set to deploy at peak altitude. I always wanted mine to look exactly like the picture–same paint scheme, decals meticulously applied.
The engines smelled like gun powder–basically a firecracker that sends your beauty out of sight.
We rocketeers gathered after school, and set up in the field across from my house. Now it’s your turn! Insert the key into the ignition control. We all countdown–Now mash that launch button with a thrill! Spread-out friends look to the skies. Hoping for a successful recovery.
Even a slight wind could make for a long run as the rocket floated down with the breeze. Trees were not our friends. We broke rockets, and glued them back together. When the body tubes got too hot, and burn marks showed through the paint, we felt proud of the veteran scars. We lost rockets. Some seemed to completely disappear–even with eight eyes straining to see. You’re wrong, Newton. Some things go up and never come down.
Now I’m a dad building and launching rockets with my kids. The inevitable did eventually happen–we lost a rocket. A black one with tiger stripes. One that stood proudly on a dresser. One that had more successful flights than any of my childhood rockets. The Amazon’s career finally ended–suspended in the upper limbs of an impossible tree.
It’s hard. The risk of loss can tempt you to never launch again. I’ve written here about persistence. Successful soccer players know that most of their shots won’t score goals. They kick away. Photographers know that most of their pictures will never be delivered to their clients. They shoot away. Rocketeers know that some of their rockets will be lost or destroyed. ‘Tis better to have launched and lost than never to have launched at all.