Three, Two, One, Blastoff – Rocket Science in Lima!

We had some truly spectacular weather this weekend in Lima, the first in a couple of months – yippee.  Birthday party and baby shower invites forced us however to stay near to home; so sorry, no wandering in the foothills of the Andes this weekend.  Instead we opted to do some science in our patio size backyard.  Yep, gone are the days of “oh Mr. Diplomat, your visa stamp is oh so sexy” – I have become a dad!

Trying to simultaneously teach a four- and a two-year old about planes and rockets is not without its challenges.  Fortunately, one of the things that made it to Lima House from Cairo House relatively intact was the science exploration box (with its science experiments, balsa planes, chemistry sets, baking soda and vinegar propelled rockets and the like, there is even a robot from the Smithsonian).

Our first order of business was to decide what type of rocket to design. Thanks to Google, research is a piece of cake. So the Diplomonkey design team of three highly trained and motivated engineers decided upon its own interpretation of von Braun’s Ferry Rocket (really cool concept, look it up). I am just amazed by the academic level of sophistication and preparation obtained at the pre-school level these days.

Okay, next we broke out the art supplies that we shipped from Virginia.  Armed with a ruler, some paper, and extra thick pencils in hand, the design team drew out our first dude-designed rocket ship.  The Samster finished off the schematics by drawing the exhaust blast.  I guess that Little Big Man seems to have gotten his inspiration from the YouTube videos we had seen the night before; he did comment, daddy, this is so awesome.  Why does David Bowie’s “Major Tom” come to mind? Mission to Mars next?

Rocket Design 101

Rocket Design 101

To test out the principles of aerodynamics, we snagged from the science box a couple of pre-cut balsa gliders that wifie, in her former life as a structured finance banker, had picked up as a give away at an energy conference.

Unfortunately transport of our household effects from Virginia to Cairo, followed by an evacuation that resulted in us not being there for the pack out, and subsequent shipment to Lima after ten months were not kind.  The construction and reconstruction engineer however broke out that wonder of repair tools.  Yes, the cyanoacrylate adhesive known to mankind as Super Glue!  And, of course, my fingers did get stuck together in the process – just part of the fun.

With the glider built and its broken wing and wing tip repaired, and now strengthened for all eternity, flight tests commenced. Three, two, one, blast-off. Our German short-haired pointer (call sign Bird Dog), who tried to eat our “bird” as it was reentering the atmosphere and attempting to land, played the role of the chase plane.

Trying alternative delta wing designs and materials, the team constructed other potential launch and re-entry vehicles from a processed wood pulp and cotton fiber product (yes, paper).  The design team had great success, and a good time.  In keeping with you know, the Nazca lines and the von Daniken thing, the rocket scientists celebrated with some Peruvian chicha morada.

Nasca Lines - Whale

Nazca Lines – Whale

For those curious enough to try, the simple recipe just takes two to three ears of purple corn, three cinnamon sticks, 12 cups of water, a diced whole pineapple (you can even chuck in the peel), a diced green apple, a tablespoon of whole cloves, a cup of white sugar, and half a cup of lime juice.  Allow the ingredients to reach a boil then simmer on medium-low for about 45 minutes.  Cool and then serve.

Purple Peruvian Corn

Purple Peruvian Corn

Have a glass of chicha, enjoy the pictures (taken with my Nikon and iPhone), and think creatively.  For some of us tomorrow have to go back to work and write briefing memos.

Cheers!

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