LAURINBURG — Rockets soared over the James L. Morgan Recreation Complex on Wednesday as a group of eight Boy Scouts spent a day of their spring break earning a merit badge in space exploration.
Scouts from Bladen, Moore, and Robeson counties constructed model rockets at Scotland County Memorial Library under the guidance of Library Director Leon Gyles, who encountered more than a few missiles during his career as a naval aviator and still maintains the hobby.
Other topics covered while the Scouts assembled nose cones, launch lugs, engine mounts, and recovery wadding included the progressively powerful engines that they would not be using and the laws of physics — namely, “an object’s acceleration is proportional to the force applied to it” and “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
“The purpose of this is to get the merit badge and also to test Newton’s laws of motion … and we get to blow stuff up,” was the excited proclamation of Quentin Weik, a member of Pack 344 in St. Pauls.
Before the group moved to the Morgan complex to launch rockets over the soccer fields, Gyles issued a few safety warnings, including a caution to the Scouts to resist the urge to jerk the controller in their enthusiasm to send their handiwork skyward.
“It went this high off the ground between two vehicles and went over to the baseball field,” Gyles recalled of a prior incident. “Luckily nobody was playing baseball.”
However, the prospect of causing minor destruction was unlikely to dissuade a group of Boy Scouts with an admitted proclivity for pyrotechnics.
“I like launching rockets, and what I love even more than that is seeing them blow up,” said Sam Badgett. “Unless it’s my rocket. Probably the hardest part was gluing the wings on. That was really hard and took forever.”
The day’s gusts of wind didn’t make it easier for the scouts to track their rockets’ descent from more than 300 feet in the air — an altitude quickly reached at approximately 225 miles per hour. But that didn’t stop them from trying, with cries of “look, it’s going to attack the bird, “it’s going for a free fall,” and in one case: “it blew up.”
Though several rockets were recovered with lost and damaged wings and dislodged motors, each Scout was able to launch his rocket twice to fulfill the merit badge requirements.
“It did well; it didn’t break,” Ian Hursey, of Pack 622 in Dublin, said of his rocket. “I was expecting it to break because they say three wings are the hardest.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.