After John recovered his rocket it was time for a celebratory beer. A bit later it was time to take Elvis’s rocket out to the range. It was a beautiful beast of a rocket all carbon fiber with a motor nearly two thirds the size of the rocket. Over-powered rockets have never bothered Elvis. Elvis makes his own propellant and has had a great many outstanding launches, and very few failures. His propellant (poor-boy) is not only consistent and reliable but kicks some serious ass.
After the inevitable launch control malfunctions, and one failed igniter, we finally managed to send his rocket underway. The rockets name, by the way, is ‘Return to Sender’. An appropriate name for a rocket capable of reaching over four vertical miles. It was a beautiful and laser straight launch. Up it went pushed violently by an eight foot fire tail, bluish purple with many mach diamonds and hardly any smoke. Soon it was so far up that we lost sight of it and had to rely on other means of tracking. Yes, he did have a GPS built into the nose cone and it was transmitting telemetry back down to earth to Elvis’s hand held receiver.
“Something’s wrong, I lost signal” Elvis said as he headed to his SUV.
Moments later he regained the signal. The GPS said that Return to Sender was two and a half miles north. The on board GPS doesn’t transmit a continuous signal; it sends a burst of data every five seconds. He got a few more data points that basically said the same thing then lost the signal. We drove to the exact spot of the last reported location and found a big flat empty. On the Black Rock Desert three miles from the launch site there was simply nothing to look at. Not a single man made object was visible on the playa.
Where the hell did Return to Sender go? The wind was nearly non existent. There was no impact crater, dust cloud, or any indication of any debris. No parachute, nothing was out there.
Did the rocket gods claim Return to Sender as a sacrifice?
We set the GPS to track our position and leave a “Breadcrumb” trail. We started a search pattern. From the last known location Elvis started driving in an ever expanding spiral. At first the driving was slow but as the curve got larger our speed increased until we were doing a 70 mph left turn. After five loops covering about three square miles we started to begin the acceptance part of the grieving process.
It may be gone forever…
We went back to camp and proceeded to drown our sorrows with beer, steak, and chili beans. Tomorrow is another day, maybe with luck Return to Sender will find its way back somehow.
Maybe someone else found it. Only time will tell.
Part 4: The ‘Positivity’ explosion and the soft ball cannon.