“Five, four, three, two, one, liftoff”— was the refrain heard repeatedly at the Lonesome Pine Regional Spaceport (airport) as some thirty to forty Wise County high school, area college students and dozens of onlookers participated in a space technology event today, Saturday, Nov. 20. The young rocket scientists launched some fifty to sixty zippy rockets skyward to altitudes of 3,000 feet over Wise, Va., in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains.
Jimmy O’Dell Carroll, one of the original six Rocket Boys of the movie October Sky, participated with the Valley AeroSpace Team lead by Augusta County’s Chuck Neff, to teach and inspire the students to take-on new heights in science, technology, engineering and mathematics on a slighly chilly Saturday morning after building several rockets Friday afternoon and going late into the night.
Next year, students from southwestern Virginia will not only be encouraged to build rockets again, but step-up to participate in the development and construction of a high-altitude research balloon to launch from the Lonesome Pine Regional Spaceport complete with a somewhat sophisticated remote sensing data collection device know as a CubeSat or cube satellite.
The second-level $5,000 privately funded effort would have students actually build the CubeSat to fly thousands of feet into the atmosphere while transmitting data to a ground receiver. Students would recover the balloon through global positioning systems and analyze the data for a research project.