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Turns out, it is rocket science

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Similar to an omelet maker, North Medford High School astronomy students couldn’t make a rocket without breaking a few eggs.

Hampered Saturday by last-minute setbacks and strong winds at an open White City field, a trio of student teams made valiant attempts to protect the payload inside their custom rockets, but none succeeded in making it to the next stage of the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

Coming closest to the national student rocket competition’s requirements of keeping three eggs unbroken after close to 45 seconds in the air was Team Quasar, consisting of seniors Kylie Baker and Annalysa Murray.

“We had one survive, one injury and one death,” Baker joked about the shape of their three-egg cargo. “It’s better than a total loss.”

Their rocket reached an altitude of more than 525 feet, according to Murray, who gathered the reading from an altimeter on a chip placed in the nose cone.

Murray’s grandmother Laura Parish said a class trip to Cape Canaveral inspired her granddaughter.

“I mean that’s on my bucket list — maybe I can go to NASA,” Parish said.

Preparing their rocket for launch involved Baker — dressed for a softball game after the launch — shaving 6 grams off the nose cone her team created on a 3-D printer using their own design. Scraping off less than a quarter ounce kept the rocket at the competition’s 650-gram maximum.

North Medford astronomy teacher Robert Black, who has had students enter the competition six times, said it was the first time he’d had three teams operating simultaneously. Black said this year’s students had been designing and building their rockets since the beginning of the school year, but Black said he believes the students may have spent more time on computer designs and 3-D printing than any of the previous competitors. He said he might encourage “more time tinkering next year.”

No eggs survived in the Space Babes rocket, named The White Sky Stallion and designed by seniors Gabby Parks, Gwenyth Mortensen and Makayla Payne. Yolk soaked the cardboard body tube of the rocket and cotton balls meant to protect its cargo.

“We should bury it,” Mortensen said at the wreckage.

The teens said their rocket had flown straight two weeks ago during a test flight, and they thought they’d made only minor changes.

Because their nylon parachutes melted in the test flight, they switched to a canvas parachute this time around and a slightly less powerful engine.

Black described a “dud engine” midway through the Space Babes’ flight as a factor in its mission failure — even though that component was beyond their control.

“I’ve had that happen,” Black said.

Although the outcome wasn’t what his students wanted, Black said “they’ll all be better students” because of their efforts in the competition, which functioned as senior projects for some.

“Seeing kids put their hands on tools — that’s success in itself,” Black said.

For a third team, The Martians, the lesson was to move forward from steep setbacks. Team members Leo Villers and Spencer Charles had to rebuild a rocket from scratch after a test flight two weeks ago ended in destruction.

Despite their best efforts, their rebuilt rocket ended up one ounce too heavy and was disqualified. Even a launch “just for fun” went less than 30 feet in the air before plunging back to earth.

“I think it was a bit top-heavy,” said Villers, who wants to pursue a career in astrophysics.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Team Quasar and team Martians prep for launching their rockets in White City Saturday. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Team Quasar, Annalysa Murry and Kylie Baker next to Mr. Black, launch their rocket in White City Saturday.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune