1992 marks the 500 year anniversary of Columbus' trip to America. It
would be fun to commemorate this with an "Aim for the moon" model rocket
contest. The goal of the contest could be to get a small transmitter near
the moon as cheaply as possible (cost could be measured as total
newton-seconds of thrust for all stages). The only restrictions would be
that only off the shelf "model rocket motors" could be used and that the
standard transmitter must be in the payload. I think this limits people
to using "N" or smaller rockets.
It seems that using a small rocket to send a small transmitter to the
moon would be very possible. It would take a rocket with a number of
stages starting with the larger size motors; however, I think you could do
it without going so far as making a 10 stage rocket that starts with
multiple "N"s. To save you some arithmetic, let me point out that an "N"
has about 8,000 times the newton-seconds of an "A" motor. The Isp on larger
"model" rocket motors is about the same as that used on "real" rockets.
This means that, for each stage, the delta-Vs should be comparable to that
of large rockets with a comparable fraction of total weight as fuel -
except for air resistance. :-) If you only want to lift a very small
payload it should be possible to do it with a reasonably small rocket.
Such an event would probably be well covered by the media. This would be
good for rocket enthusiast in general and model rocket companies in
particular. It could be a world wide contest. Companies could probably
be convinced to donate prize money or sponsor a rocket.
There could be prizes (first, second, ...) in a number of different
categories. One might be the "cheapest" rockets to get within 100,000
miles of the moon and go beyond the orbit of the moon. Another might be
for the rockets that come the closest to the center of the side of the
moon facing us (crash landings ok). Another might be for the shortest
trip time. Another might be for the cheapest to escape the Earth's
The rockets would be on the expensive side for model rockets (not for
space in general) so whole clubs would probably work together on one
entry to the contest. My guess is that a rocket could be built for under
$5,000 in parts. Once there is a formal contest, kids could get sponsors
and donations. Many clubs would be able to raise that kind of money for
such a fun project. The radio could be made to transmit the names of the
sponsors, designers, and builders.
If lots of us recommend the idea to clubs and rocket manufacturers this
might happen. Please pass the idea on.
Such a contest would dramatically demonstrate the contrast between 1492
and 1992. Back then many people thought the world was flat, today kids
all around the world can send rockets to the moon!!!!!!!!
PS I think the solar sail race to Mars is so neat that it would be fun
to other things kind of like it. Since entering this contest is
relatively cheap, it could let many people get involved.