Rocketeers blast off at Mansfield

Spectators and participants gather May 26 for the Fire in the Sky rocket launch at Mansfield. (Empire Press photo/Linda Barta)


By Adrienne Douke
Empire Press Correspondent

Empire Press photo/Adrienne Douke
Mansfield History teacher Luke Hall and Mansfield Booster Club president Lisa Hall serve concessions at the Fire in the Sky Launch held Memorial week-end at the Mansfield Sportsmans Club.

The Washington Aerospace Club held its 15th annual Fire in the Sky rock launch over Memorial Day weekend at the Mansfield Sportsmans Club grounds near Mansfield. Dale Woodford was the Fire in the Sky launch director.

“When we think about safety issues, being out here in the middle of nowhere with flat ground as far as the eye can see, this is a rocketeer’s paradise,” Range Safety Officer Jim Pommert said, noting the rocketeers love of wide open spaces that the greater Mansfield area offers.

The long weekend gave young rocketeers and new rocket enthusiasts an opportunity to earn their rocketry certifications and just enjoy watching the launches, especially the night launch.

“The night launch is special to us rocketeers,” Pommert said.

“There are not many places where a night launch is advisable but Mansfield has perfect conditions — when it’s not windy — where we can still meet all of our standard safety requirements,” Pommert noted.

Empire Press photo/Adrienne Douke
Mansfield School Junior Breana Ballmes helps the Mansfield Booster Club serve meals to the Rocketeers and spectators at the Fire in the Sky launch, during Memorial Day Week-end at the Mansfield Sportsmans Club. Ballmes said, “Working here serving meals helps me earn my community service credits for school, and helps raise money for our Booster Club that supports several important school projects and programs. I think volunteer work is important, and it’s fun too.”

For rocketry enthusiasts everywhere, the Fire in the Sky launch is the Northwest’s premier rocket

launch. This launch attracts amazing rockets; from ½ A to N motors, clusters, air starts, and multi stage

rockets, you will find them all there.

Several hundred people attended. The launch offered free admission to anyone who wanted to watch a lot of rockets fly, and learn about rocketry. Rocketry fervor was definitely in the air.

Breakfast and lunch were served by the Mansfield Booster Club for the second year. “The Booster Club has done concessions for the Rocketeer group for the past two years. It’s been a fun event for us, and we enjoy having them visit our town,” said Booster Club President Lisa Hall. “Making meals for the Rocketeers is a good way for us to raise money for all the projects and programs the Booster Club supports. This year we contributed to the Mansfield School’s ceramics program, assisted in sending students on field trips, we put on the annual Back to School BBQ, and we offer scholarships to graduating Mansfield students.”

Rocketry is a family affair. John Sanders and his daughter Autumn quickly became a team over the weekend, as his daughter’s zest for rocketry gave him the bug, and they both earned their Level 1 Certification.

Empire Press photo/Adrienne Douke
Father-daughter team Autumn and John Sanders from the West Side celebrate earning their Level One Rocketry certifications together at the Fire in the Sky Launch held over Memorial Week-end at the Mansfield Sportsmans Club. “We’re both very happy with our accomplishments,” John Sanders said.

“We were both nervous, but we received our certifications and it was so worth it,” Autumn said.

What starts out as a hobby soon becomes a lifelong passion of learning about speed, trajectory and craft repairs. “It can be an expensive hobby,” Pommert said, “But each rocket is designed to be flown again; we are budget conscious.”

Rocketeers typically build their own craft and affectionately give them names, like ‘Pointy End Up’ or John Sander’s ‘Rin Fipper’ (reversed for Fin Ripper meaning speed and power).

Rocketry is also academic. Ten students from The Mount Lake High School Rocket Club along with their assistant principal Peter Schurke attended the event. They came to launch and learn more about rocketry. Schurke said, “I have always been a fan of rocketry and this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. The discipline of rocketry encompasses a lot of academic principles such as physics, mathematics, social and physical skills, and it’s great fun too. And, our students get extracurricular school credits for it.”

As the event wrapped up it was evident that the launch was successful by the smiles on everyone’s faces, and secure in the knowledge old time mentoring still works for bringing new rocketeers on board.

For Pommert, “This year it will be 50 years of rocketeering, it is wonderful to see so many young people interested in this sport, I sure have enjoyed it.”