Model rocket pioneer, Vern Estes, celebrates his 90th birthday

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One of the highlights of being a Cub Scout leader has been introducing a new generation of kids to this pasttime. It’s a little trickier to find places that sell the rocket engines these days and harder still to find places where it’s legal to launch them but there’s nothing like the excitement on the face of a child hitting that ignition button for the first time.


I built and launched many an Estes rocket as a yute. Always fun!


Their old catalogs are online. (I could’ve sworn this was previously linked here at BoingBoing, but now I can’t find it.)

I built five of these but only ever flew one of them.


When I was a juvie nerd, I lived for Estes (and Centuri) model rockets.

Roger that!

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I dabbled in this both as a kid and with the kiddo. It’s a fun time. If you have never done it before, I recommend getting a kit and trying it out. You might end up like my friends who are building their own motors and launching stuff so high you need a GPS transmitter to find them again.


I loved Estes rockets. Even tried building a rocket of my own design, with a cluster of three Estes D engines. Turned out about how you would expect.


My childhood dream was to eventually save up enough to purchase and build the Estes Saturn V.


They were fun. Both when the parachute popped out & really worked!!!
And when we aimed them at the school.


We saw this happen with a mini-engine (i.e. a 1/2 A-something). The fellow rocketeer’s dad figured it wouldn’t amount to much, and it would be a good rocket to try for a first launch. I suggested that he might be surprised: sure the engine was small, but the rocket itself as about the size of a bubble tea straw. Sure enough we never saw it again…


My first rocket was an Estes Astron Scout in about 1977:

I made and flew countless others afterward. The best maker hobby for a kid EVER.


Had the same rocket as the OP… red and white for the win! We used to launch them at my grandma’s lake cottage and eventually we started varnishing them inside and out so they could float in the lake a bit while we paddled the canoe to recover them. Also had the model that had a bigger plastic tube for the inclusion of hapless earthworms or ants (sorry, it happened, SCIENCE!)

We also used to tie the funnelator to the railings on the pier and try to nail various kids out in the lake. Good times.

A bunch of folks get together every THXGV near the grade school here in Marin to shoot rockets all day until the turkey is ready. Cops and firefighters came by one time and a firefighter Dad talked them into us continuing. They stayed for quite a while to enjoy the show.


Estes rockets, Heathkit, and Edmund Scientific – No wonder I never had any money as a kid.



Of course, it’s missing this:


The Scout was my second rocket. Then the Astron Drifter, which game with several interchangeable parachutes (a 12" and a 24", I think). Then the glider plane (whatever that one was called), then the V-2 and Big Bertha.


Charlie Brown had kite-eating trees, I had rocket-eating ones. Lost a really nice rocket to trees I didn’t think I’d drift towards – it wasn’t my neighborhood, I was demo-ing for preschool kids.
Eventually I realized I enjoyed the build more than the flights (and repairs – that Mercury Redstone Level 5 kit was really too fragile to fly).


I also had the same red and white one as the OP. The coolest one that I built but never flew was the Estes USS Andromeda. It came out great, but I never trusted the design enough to think it would survive a launch and didn’t want to break it.


That was one of the last rockets I built! Definitely the hardest one, too. But I loved it and flew it many times. My last rocket (of my youth) was the Cherokee-D, the first of their D-class rockets.


Jeez, I haven’t thought of ES in a long time! My first telescope (a Tasco reflector re-branded as Edscorp) came from Edmund Scientific, purchased with my long-saved allowance money. My parents – as doubtful as they seemed to be that I could patiently save $ as long as I did (probably a mind-game they were playing on me) – seemed even more doubtful that I could see anything on the first try. Saturn! Tiny and pale, but there it was. Like I told them, if it doesn’t twinkle, then it’s likely a planet; stupidly easy to find. Thank you, ES!!