July 28, 2005

Short notice but wicked cool

Got a last-minute email from a rocketry bud letting me know that at 9pm last night on the SciFi channel, the show MasterBlasters would be focusing on rocketry.

I'd never seen the show before, but what it seems to be is a set team of generalists (engineers, fabricators, etc), known as the MasterBlasters, go up against a team of "experts" to accomplish a given task for the episode. For last nights' experts, the rocketry guys were led by Erik Gates, who is a legend in high-power rocketry. The rest of his team included his brother Dirk, plus some of their friends who've helped on other big Gates Brother's projects (great photos of their work are available here). You may have seen the Gates Brothers on the show MythBusters, when they assisted in the episode where they strapped rockets to the top of a car.

Back to MasterBlasters. Inspired by the movie Wizard of Oz, each team was given a kid's playhouse made of wood. These weren't flimsy little structures, they were basically mini-houses with an attached porch and full roof, maybe six or eight feet to a side and about that tall as well. The challenge was to launch the house with four rocket motors to the greatest possible altitude, the house had to spin at least three times on the way up (tornado!), at the top the wicked witch on her broom had to be released to fall seperately, and the house - with Dorothy (and her little doggie too!) on the front porch - had to be returned to ground safely.

Quite a task.

I won't give spoilers, because it's quite fun to watch the final results. I found it interesting that, as is usually the case in these kinds of shows, the two teams came up with radically different solutions to the problem. The rocketeers basically used the house itself as the nosecone of their rocket, whereas the Masterblasters built a mast containing their rocket motors to drag the structure behind. It worked very much like the escape tower functioned on the US manned capsules (and I talked about the escape towers here and here with my posts about the Little Joe series of rockets).

Fun episode. If you get a chance, see it. I'll be checking back to see what other kind of fun the MasterBlasters get into in future shows.

Posted by: Ted at 11:34 AM | category: Rocketry
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1 Yeah,I saw this last night.For the most part it was kinda cool.My # 1 beef is with next weeks show.Giant lawn darts?That's all we need is a prime time demonstration of how close to a target you can come with a large rocket.Not to sound negative but this is one case where I truely hope they all fail.

Posted by: Russ at July 28, 2005 03:16 PM (ObxzR)

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