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The Demise of Model Rocketry? 728

Posted by michael
from the and-the-rockets'-red-glare dept.
Mark Lytle writes "Due to restrictions imposed by the rather broad Homeland Security Act, the hobby I suspect many Slashdotters, being technology buffs, grew up with, the Estes Model Rocket is now firmly on the endangered species list. The little cardboard rockets I learned science with in high school are evidently suspected of being potential weapons of mass destruction. Go figure. Perhaps by getting involved, we can stop this sillyness... Anyway, i hope so...."
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The Demise of Model Rocketry?

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  • by Neophytus (642863) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:32AM (#5342844)
    Next thing I know my model plane will be considered a spyplane if I mount a video camera on it. Actually, I shouldn't give them ideas.
    • Hmmmm no, i guess your model plane will be fine unless you let a model-terrorist come aboard. Lame comment.. Yeah i know
    • by jkrise (535370) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:41AM (#5342897) Journal
      No - what happens next is "Slashdotters" will be considered potential terrorists!! Simple reasoning: why would a website help you build personal submarines and personal rockets?? I see a new slashdot-race developing - everyone who values personal security - better start reading slashdot.

      Why? Because nobody is trustworthy anymore! What if my BOFH sysadmin builds a personal submarine and threatens me (the boss)? Can you see it now? We all need peronal submarines, rockets, nuclear reactors and personal 1024-bit encryption to our grey cells. Till then we can't be secure.
    • Re:That is silly (Score:3, Informative)

      by AmigaAvenger (210519)
      I've done that quite a bit, and I'm just waiting for the FBI to show up, toss me in solitary, and take my spy planes of mass distruction!

      (video at http://www.ryankramer.com/planes/se/sefull.avi [ryankramer.com] if you want to see it. inverted flat spin at 6:40 is definitely something a terrorist would do!)

    • Re:That is silly (Score:2, Interesting)

      by phil reed (626)
      I realize you said it in jest, but there have been reports of anti-Israeli terrorists planning on using remote-control model planes as flying bombs. See here [debka.com].
    • This is about the handling and shipment of hazmat (hazerdous materials). Ammonium perchlorate composite propellant can be quite destructive and we have decided that in order to transport it you should have a permit. Ghastly isn't it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:32AM (#5342846)

    Wait until they realize what happens when you mix those two together and strike a match!

    Little chance of gasoline being outlawed (if it were this whole war business would be out the window), so I guess soap has to go.

    • by trash eighty (457611) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:42AM (#5342906) Homepage
      so I guess soap has to go.


      excellent! a plan with no drawbacks! oh yes i am european.

    • Soap + Gasoline + Fireworks + WD40 + ... + Estes model rocket + lego guy in the payload compartment was a favorite when I was a kid. That'd make Tom Ridge raise an eybrow.
    • Having skipped arson 101, could someone tell me what happens when you mix gasoline and soap and light it? I'm guessing that the soap increases the viscosity and that the explosion throws globs of burning peices. Can someone elaborate? I'm curious (in a scientific, rather than evil-doer way).
      • Re:I'll bite (Score:3, Informative)

        by mpe (36238)
        Having skipped arson 101, could someone tell me what happens when you mix gasoline and soap and light it?

        It's better known as "napalm".
        • Re:I'll bite (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ryan Amos (16972)
          Yeah, and it's not really this mythical substance everyone makes it out to be. Really, napalm is just sticky gasoline. It worked so well in vietnam because they could spray the shit everywhere and it would stick to the jungle and burn it down. It's really not any more volatile or dangerous than regular gasoline. There are actually more ways to make napalm than you can count, but they all involve, you guessed it, gasoline and a thickening agent. Styrofoam, soap, and supposedly even orange juice concentrate (though that was from the Anarchist's cookbook so I dunno if it's true) will all work.
  • by 3liter914-6 (625799) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:33AM (#5342848)
    Maybe it's for the best, what with the future of the space program in jeopardy and all. Why turn children's eyes to the heavens when they have no chance of ever making it there. Still it's sad that millions of young people will never know the joy of sending live crickets hurtling into the wild blue yonder.
    • naw, the cricket one wasn't the coolest...I loved the one with the camera in the nose cone that, when the charge to pop out the parachute fired, it took a picture facing down...now that was cool to see myself looking up at it. It will NOT be cool if I can't take my kids out to fire these things off one day in the future without getting a police excort for the fuel packs that I bought at Hobby Lobby.

      Hobby Lobby = Bin Laden Bazaar =[
  • Is this true? I've been flying model rockets wth my kids for years! I taught my mids how to angle the rockets into the wind, and how to get the rocket to land where we want. On a hot summer day with no wind we've used parachutes, on April-June we've used
    streamers. I've even built a rocket with a strobe
    light for a payload, we launch it at night. the strobe light is my design.

    Home of the what?? It's supposed to be FREE!

  • Worse than the UK! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Big Mark (575945) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:36AM (#5342863)
    Over this side of the pond getting hold of engines bigger than the Estes D-size is a nightmare, you need to have licences to handle explosives, have your address registered as a storage area for explosives etc before you can even think of buying them. Shipping doesn't appear to be a problem - they stick them in a van and have them driven to you, for a princely sum - but it is an utter fucking nightmare to get hold of the big 'uns.

    I don't see why they do it either, D-class motors aren't exactly likely to propel a warhead any significant distance. Then again, we have had the IRA and friends (and enemies!) on our doorstep for over twenty-five years now...

    -Mark
  • by SuperDuG (134989) <be@eclec.MONETtk minus painter> on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:37AM (#5342866) Homepage Journal
    Toy weapons (IE: Guns and Swords), as obviously these will be used for terrorist training devices. Why use the real thing, when you can go plastic.

    Richard Simmons Videos - obviously a terrorist, have you see all those fat people "suffering to the oldies". Excercise is unamerican.

    Chess Boards - Obviously the game of chess is nothing more than a war-game simulation with black and white pieces, obviously increasing racial tension.

    Linux Operating System and all GNU Products - If I didn't know any better I'd suspect that someone must be funding these "free" projects, obviously since it's not American to give things out for free, it must be terrorism funding.

    PokeMon - it's anime, obviously unamerican.

    Honorable Mentions Include:

    Duke Nuke Um Forever
    The Flying/Electric Car
    The True OJ Story
    And ... silly putty (ain't nothing silly about it)

  • by sharkey (16670) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:39AM (#5342879)
    The background checks will be more stringent than those used for baggage screeners at airports.

    'Nuff said.

  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:39AM (#5342882) Homepage Journal
    ...but when I was a teenager oh so many years ago, we actually did make destructive devices out of model rockets. No guidance system, but boy did they go BOOM when they hit their target (usually wrecked cars at a local junkyard) and the makeshift warhead went BOOM.

    However that may be, outlawing them seems to be going a bit too far. A determined terrorist doesn't need a kit to build a bomb or even a crude missile.
    • by nlinecomputers (602059) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @10:20AM (#5343640)
      I've done simular things in my past, but to do what you did you had to go beyound what a simple model rocket engine can do. Adding black power to the nose of a rocket isn't in NAR regs last time I checked.

      When I was a teen we got into a war with the local model airplane group. I shot down one plane(it was cool but really it was a damn lucky shot) with my home made missle. Wasn't able to repeat the act as they were able to easily dodge the missles. We were just wasting black power.

      My friends and I ended up designing a semi-wire gide missle using fishing line and a hand held launcher. It wasn't easy to guide(sic) the rocket. You had to fire across the path of the plane and if you ran like hell while trying to drag the wire in the path of the plane you could take it out, if you were lucky and fast enough. It wasn't explosive it used the wire to rip the plane in half. Odd enough the guys flying the planes never called the law on us. I think they just took it as a challenge. They only lost 3 more planes, all repaired, while we must of shot off nearly 30 attempts over that summer and lost or destroyed most of the rockets. As "wars" go I'd say we lost.
    • by wfrp01 (82831) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @11:08AM (#5344084) Journal
      A determined terrorist doesn't need a kit to build a bomb or even a crude missile

      A determined terrorist doesn't need bombs and missles either. I'm convinced the threat of terrorism is overstated for one simple reason: if anyone in the US were really keen on causing death and destruction, it would be easy. I don't want to enumerate all the possiblities here, lest someone conclude I spend too much time thinking about this stuff; but really, if you want to kill, maim, and destroy, it wouldn't be that hard - our current police state's silly lockdown tactics notwithstanding. Gasoline and a match, ya know? The fact that we don't see trains derailing all over the place and so forth gives me some confidence that Ashcroft/Ridge/Cheney/Bush et al. have their heads up their butts.

      Are there bad people in the world? Yup. Do some of them hate Americans? Yup. Are some of them planning to do bad things to the US? Yup. Is the free world in danger of being destroyed by these yokels? Nope. Should we go get them? Yup. Should we mobilize many many billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of troops and our military's finest and best to isolated whackos dispersed around the globe in various loosely confederated pockets of extremism? Nope. This is a job for CIA snipers, not heavy bombers and tanks. There are other dangers to the homeland besides whacky religious fundamentalists from abroad. Like AIDS. Like social security. Like child welfare. Like the economy. Like our own heavy handed police-state thugs like Ashcroft. The US needs new management badly.

    • If rocket-propelled explosive warheads are outlawed, only outlaws will have rocket-propelled explosive warheads.
  • You know.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plazman30 (531348) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:40AM (#5342886) Homepage
    There's a boatload of stuff that be used in terrorist acts. Paper can start a fire. Rags and alcohol can also be used. Gasoline can be used to light a subway on fire. But somehow I don't see them banning gasoline or alcohol. So they have to pick on model rockets? A hobby that encourages people to learn about science in a fun way and encourages young minds to consider real careers.

    You know, before I went into technology, I used to be a research biologist. Hobbies like Model ROcketry are what kept me interested in science as a kid led me to pursue all science.

    You know, if we had recuiters for Pharmaceuticals stading outside of colleges offering new graduates 10.2 million over 3 years, then cancer would have been cured 10 years ago. Why do athletes, that contribute NOTHING to society, get paid the most in our society?
    • Because they do contribute. Or, at least people seem to think that they do, and then go ahead and buy a ticket to a game. The funds from that ticket pay the athlete.

      I realize that this is obvious, but it helps set up my next statement:

      Each individual gets to decide what they value. Your assigning no value to the contributions of a professional athlete does little to dissuade Joe Football from buying his ticket...
    • Re:You know.... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tgagnon (651625)
      You know, if we had recuiters for Pharmaceuticals stading outside of colleges offering new graduates 10.2 million over 3 years, then cancer would have been cured 10 years ago. Why do athletes, that contribute NOTHING to society, get paid the most in our society? I don't see how offering medical graduates tons of money would help cure cancer, hell, most doctors are useless anyways. You go to the doctor, tell him whats wrong and he prescribes whatever drug that has been pushed upon him the most, why do they need to be payed millions for that?

      And athletes get paid tons of money because they can do things most people can't do, even if they wanted to, plus they make up such a small percentage of the population. There are tons of people who make money doing useless things, you just hear about the athletes more often. Plus, I can garauntee that most athletes work harder at their jobs than you ever will.
      • by asmithmd1 (239950) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:03AM (#5343043) Homepage Journal
        Kids are indoctrinated with sports from the time they are born. They watch it on TV, they play little league, before JV, before varsity in High School. If a kid isn't a master of a sport before he leaves High School there is no chance of him playing at the College level. And after that there is essentaily no chance of playing in the pros. Compare the above model to how we train Scientists. Senior year in high school, students decide maybe I would like to be a biologist, no maybe chemist, I will just start out undecided.
        As a culture we celebrate the wrong things. Who has done more to save lives, increase the well being of everyone and increase our standard of living: Micheal Jorden or the inventor of the MRI
        can you name the inventor of the MRI without google?
        • +1 Insightful (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Niles_Stonne (105949) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:30AM (#5343269) Homepage
          Wish I had mod points.

          This is exactly how I feel as well. Science, which often takes more work than sports, should be celebrated.

          Teachers at all levels need to be paid better as well. The "Well, I'm only an average programmer, so I'll teach instead" mentality/expectation needs to be reversed.
    • by tanveer1979 (530624) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:16AM (#5343132) Homepage Journal
      Once a serial arsonist used paper and gasoline to burn down 350 buildings, killing about 20 people in a month. He was facinated by fire. This happened in the US. For a determined terrorist, it just takes a can of gas, as what happened in Korea where 120 were killed and the man in question was just deranged and mentally disturbed. Banning things like this only cause inconvinience to normal people. Terrorists find a workaround.

      Here in india, owning a gun is a nightmare, there are tonnes of documents and it takes ages. If somebody wants to own a gun it is actually a nightmare to do it legally, and guess what terrorists roam with AK-47s.

      In my opinion, your adminstration has gone mad.
  • ...I'm not sure about a weapon of mass destruction, but if you jam a C-sized rocket into a heavily modified Alpha and launch it sideways at a crowd by accident (that whole safety key issue is for wimps, after all), I think we've got a weapon of mass panic (WMP).

    Not that I'm speaking from experience.
  • by inyercells (626695) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:41AM (#5342896)
    The nuns in my elementary school outlawed paper planes, spitballs, match flipping and other various incendiaries and projectiles decades ago. I hope Sister Mary Discipline claims prior art and stops this madness.
  • by MongooseCN (139203) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:41AM (#5342899) Homepage
    Instead of using the nasty word "Rocket" we should rename the hobby the Vertical Paper Propulsion Game.

    But really now, you'd need like, 50 Estes E engines to launch a hand grenade a few feet away. I think a terrorist is more likly to use a pickup truck to get a bomb around.
  • Reasons (Score:5, Funny)

    by Root Down (208740) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:42AM (#5342908) Homepage
    It's because, on radar, they look just like stealth nuclear missles - at least until the little parachute pops open, but by then it's DEFCON5 anyway....

    I imagine it's because they might be used to disperse chemical agents, though the best I was ever capable of was dispering little model rocket parts.
    • Um, that would be DEFCON 1 (total nuclear war), DEFCON 5 is complete peace (and as far as I know, we have never been at DEFCON 5, but I could be wrong)
    • Re:Reasons (Score:3, Informative)

      It's because, on radar, they look just like stealth nuclear missles - at least until the little parachute pops open, but by then it's DEFCON5 anyway....

      Uh... No. Radar systems aren't really looking for nuclear missiles being launched from continental USA, and besides, the difference between a 20ft long missile that's going intercontinental, and a rocket that's about 12 inches long is enormous, (different radar signatures, different trajectory, different speeds, different...)

      I imagine it's because they might be used to disperse chemical agents, though the best I was ever capable of was dispering little model rocket parts.

      Yes. I imagine you do imagine that. However, that isn't why these are being banned; it's more the materials that are used to construct the rockets are being clamped down upon; because they can be used to make much bigger rockets than model rocketary. The politicians drafting the laws don't really care whether model rocketry gets destroyed or not. In fact, they don't even care much whether the laws are practical at all; currently the laws are coming into play that preclude foreigners from driving explosives within the USA, which sounds fine, till you start to think about delivery men crossing the border from Canada and so forth; or people with green cards who are living in USA perfectly legitimately etc. etc.

    • Re:Reasons (Score:5, Informative)

      by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @10:34AM (#5343779)
      I'm assuming this was a joke. Much more capable delivery systems exist in the form of r/c planes, light aircraft, needles in a crowd, etc.

      The chances of a model rocket, which is capable of lifting grams, actually becoming a preferred delivery system for any terrorist is nearly nil. To say they are inaccurate is an understatment. To say they have a short range (couple thousand feet at best), is an understatement.

      Larger rockets can be created by means of combining many motors together but this is more complex to launch, harder to construct so that it will survive launch, and quickly becomes very expensive. Even if multiple motors are used, it still becomes a tradeoff of payload versus range. If you any sizable payload, your range is significantly going to suffer. These things are just not designed for heavy lifting. They certainly are not military grade and they leave a rather noteworthy exhaust trail behind. Not like you can hide and launch these things.

      Long story short, only an idiot would attempt to use these things for any form of terrorism.
  • Didn't you know? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sporty (27564) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:43AM (#5342912) Homepage
    Didn't you know? Rocketry, especially model rocketry, is a well known secret art. With some bubble gum, a cardboard tube, an m-80 and some match shavings, we can make "weapons of mass destruction" that can traverse many miles from iraq to the US.

    C'mmon. What's the sense in this. Really. Anyone could be as dangerous with a potato gun and be less conspicuous, since you don't have to set it up, aim it and fire. Anyone who wants to make a rocket can make one if they really want to.

    Or maybe now we should just restrict banning play stations now that they have technology for guidance systems in them.
  • Very Sad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spencerian (465343) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:46AM (#5342927) Homepage Journal
    I've been launching rockets since I was six. I taught rocketry at a summer camp. Had to explain the facts of the Challenger incident to kids. Launching rockets perked them up and showed that, at least for them, life can go on.

    Basic model rockets (not including the larger amateur rockets) can move fast, but I can't see their immediate danger to the public, as the Estes-type rockets stick to the =1 lb. rule, with very little medal, a plastic or balsa wood nose cone, and limited motor impulse, meaning that it can't lift anything huge. Any kid can tell you that a model rocket self-destructs easily when it strikes anything but air.

    Now, I can see some yahoo loading up a Big Bertha payload rocket with a few grams of anthrax and trying to spread it over a neighborhood--that's a sad possibility. Much less likely to use these things as missiles as they just can't hold a lot of explosive charge and would only be dangerous enough in a salvo.

    Also, model rockets of the store-bought type have basic aerodynamic stability with fins--no electronic guidance. So, even if the motor could burn long enough (which they can't--about 2-10 sec max), you couldn't guide the thing anywhere. The motors are solid, so there's no way to rig the basic rocket as a liquid-fuel missile, either.

    I'd be more worried about R/C planes, which can carry more because they generate lift and can be guided over long distances.
  • by wadetemp (217315) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:47AM (#5342939)
    Aren't those considered class 1 explosives as well? I've definitely seen fireworks with more propellant potential than an Estes rocket (just not the aerodynamics.)

    Or are all these wussy shipping corporations who would rather piss customers off then deal with a regulation even touching fireworks in the first place? (It's not like they're made in the US, so I assume they get shipped to the netherregions of the US somehow...)
    • Next year's end instead of firecrackers will be only laser shows and giant screen projection on how used to be firecrackers.

      At this rate, in 2005, kitchen knifes will be banned also.
  • This is stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PitViper401 (619163) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:48AM (#5342944) Journal
    This is stupid. Our government passes all sorts of laws restricting our rights even farther in order to stop terrorism despite the fact that a lot of the terrorist attacks against America have been over seas at our embassies and such places. But the government did such a good job of bolstering people's fears that people are willingly giving away their constitutional rights in order to be "protected from terrorist attacks".
  • by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:52AM (#5342966)
    References to Weapons of Mass Destruction have nothing to do with this issue. The fact that we are talking about rocket motors is only tangentially relevent. The issue is transportation of "explosive materials," and the new regulations due to the "Homeland Security." Sometimes there are legitimate concerns regarding potentially explosive devices. Remember that airplane crashing in Florida because of the fire in its cargo hold.

    No argument that the changes may be excessive. But to claim the government is equating model rockets and weapons of mass destruction shows deliberate ignorance or a pure attempt to get reader reaction.

    • Sometimes there are legitimate concerns regarding potentially explosive devices. Remember that airplane crashing in Florida because of the fire in its cargo hold.

      That fire was caused by an improperly stored oxygen generator, which was also incorrectly marked as inactive. ie: The person shipping it (an internal parts transfer for the airline) screwed up.

      There are upwards of fifty of these devices in every commercial airliner flying in the world at this moment (some 2-3000 aircraft over the U.S. alone), with none of THEM going off accidentally.

      If someone can properly ship me a steak in dry ice, there should be no problem getting a properly packaged C5 engine to me.

      No more road flares either, I take it?

  • Ahh yes.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Large Green Mallard (31462) <lgm@theducks.org> on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:52AM (#5342970) Homepage
    I think the TSA/Homeland Security/USPS is hell bent on making life difficult for everyone, on the rationale that at least one or two terrorists will be inconvenianced by it.

    "We need ID for you to send this parcel!" .. so when the plane goes down, with 5000 packages on, we can work out who planted the bomb! Or at least, pull the list, and arrest without charging anyone with a middle eastern name.

    "We're stopping terrorists!" .. well maybe. It's like saying, I would have won the lottery.. if only I'd played.
  • for great justice! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by unborracho (108756)
    Has the threat of terrorism really gotten so bad to the point that the government now thinks that estes rockets could now possibly be mass destruction weapons?

    I hate to think of the day that my children, or my children's children won't be able to have the glory i had when i made my first 2-stage d-engine rocket... that was a good day...
  • Risks at the airport (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Engelbot (24601) <`ten.omullet' `ta' `mada'> on Thursday February 20, 2003 @08:58AM (#5343005) Homepage

    We had a vendor come in and replace some equipment at work a while ago, and when we were talking during lunch, he said that one of his hobbies was model rocketry--he'd been doing it for several decades. All his jackets, bags, and shoes are covered in blackpowder residue.

    He allots a good hour on top of the airlines' recommendations to get through security.

  • ACLU (Score:4, Insightful)

    by duffian (603117) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:00AM (#5343019)
    Now is the time to stand up for your rights. Become a member:

    www.aclu.org [aclu.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:01AM (#5343030)
    They are just placing restrictions on the shipment of the engines (explosives). Everyone here seems to be saying they are outlawing the rockets themselves because they can be used as a weapon. That isn't what the article was saying at all.


    This makes me wonder what is happening with fireworks then. I know there are a lot of fireworks out there that have quite a bit more explosive force, and potental to be used in other ways. I'd bet on fireworks being banned long before the Estes Rockets.


    But, Guess if they do ban the rockets, that means a lot less rocket geeks, and more computer geeks or game programmers. I also wonder how many kids will turn to biology since bugs can be found anywhere and extracting body parts hasn't been outlawed yet.


    I just hope they don't outlaw these hobbys for kids, since as you know, Saddam does like to dismember his victims.

  • by Therlin (126989) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:07AM (#5343070)
    ... have already won.

    No, for real. Now we live in fear, now we are taking liberties away.

    Would people before 9/11 have run out of a club screaming and freaking out because someone used mace? Nope.
  • by avi33 (116048) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:09AM (#5343089) Homepage
    At a local hobby shop, they now have a sign instructing you to inform the FAA of the approximate day and time of your launches.

    For years, people have been launching them on the beach north of Chicago, and some of them can pop up on radar in curious ways. Rather than scrambling a few jets to investigate, they ask that you report launches in advance.
  • I would imagine that the paranoid US government would see growing tide private-sector rocketry as a major annoyance. They can claim anything from military radar interference to plausible methods of chemical and warhead delivery and use that to stop many legitimate efforts at small-scale and highly innovative engineering. I've read from John Carmack's posts somwhere that Armadillo Aerospace does not publish their flight control software for worry of illegitimate use.

    Does anybody know how understanding the post 9/11 government is to private sector rocketry and what hoops you have to go through to get clearance for high altitude flights?
    • by pngwen (72492) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:29AM (#5343254) Journal
      There are lots of hoops. A great deal depends on how high you will go, proximity to airports and military bases, the size of the missile, a whole lot of stuff.

      I used to launch small amateur rockets and I remember having to organize things with the FAA for the window of time I would be in the comercial air space. Basically it's like filing a flight plan with a flight controller. They verify that is a safe window when you are not as likely to shoot down a plane.

      Once you go above a certain altitude, however, you enter military air space and you have a whole other animal to deal with. They ask the tough questions like "why do you want to launch this missile?"

      All in all, I only built about 3 rockets that went higher than commercial airspace. These flew to about 100-200 thousand feet above sea level. (100,000; 120,000; 180,000 to be exact) It took me more time getting all the permissions I needed to launch the darn things than it did to engineer them.

      Other hurdles are the handling of the propellants, the little tasty bit of info about solid rocket propellants is that it is difficult to design a solid fuel motor that doesn't explode on the launch pad. Also, there is the fact that in a lot of counties you have to have a fire marshall present when you are handling the explosives.

      It's a tough hobby from a legal sense, and probably rightly so. Even from behind a bunker of sand bags, I have been knocked flat on my back from the concussion of a solid rocket explosion that was 300 yards away from me. In my earliest attempt at making a high performance rocket I actually had one explode and later found pieces of shrapnel ebedded in asphalt farther DOWNRANGE of my position. So it is rought with danger, failures are catastrophic, and if you aren't very very careful you will die if you try to build one of these.

      Also, I had built rockets with a useful payload of up to 3 kg, more than enough to load up enough explosives to blow up a building, not that I would of course.

  • by doodleboy (263186) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:12AM (#5343099)
    The terrorist attacks were a horrible atrocity, and a year and a half later I still can't understand how anyone could willingly commit such a awful crime against humanity.

    It's bad enough that 3000 innocents were killed, but the real legacy of the attacks may well be the ongoing erosion of our civil rights by those in power, e.g. the Patriot Act and its forthcoming descendents (Patriot II, TIA, etc.).

    What I've been worrying about lately is: how do democracies die? I think using some emergency to convince voters to give up their constitutionally guaranteed civil rights is a great start. It's like the Communist hysteria of the 50's, only potentially worse because of all the technology that can be brought to bear.

    The intersection of technology and surveillance was something that needed to be looked at before 9/11 ever happened, but now... I just hope people come to their senses by the time the next election rolls around.
  • Irrational (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tyreth (523822) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:15AM (#5343126)
    Didn't 9/11 teach us that you cannot stop a determined enemy? They had no bombs, no high tech weaponry. They used aircraft, a specialised WMD. This is simply _not_ the way to stop terrorism. A terrorist will get his/her hands on explosives, firearms, or whatever they need regardless of what rules are put in place.

    Imagine a society where citizens are not allowed knives, guns, explosives, anything sharp or slightly dangerous. Now imagine someone manages to sneak a gun/knife through the defenses. How much more damage could he cause because the citizens are undefended?

    My point is basically that if you increase defense it will keep the amount of damage a terrorist can do around the same - the weapons they have at their disposal will be less, but they will need less to do lots of damage. The way to defeat terrorism is to understand your enemy - find out why they hate you. If you have no fault then God will testify on your behalf whether you die or not. If you have a fault - well, then you know what you need to do. Don't get me wrong, murdering defenseless people is evil, but the question is whether the terrorist hate for good reason. Stop their mouths by being without blame - then when they murder ask why. They will stand condemned by their own words.

  • by fermion (181285) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:16AM (#5343136) Homepage Journal
    The restriction is that a carrier cannot accept shipment of explosive materials unless the employees dealing with those specific shipments pass certain background tests. Therefore shipping companies, who quite reasonable want to hire the cheapest people at the cheapest rates, are not going to increase their costs and difficulty of finding employees by imposing such addition background checks. As an example of how difficult this is, just look at the increased requirements for the airline baggage checkers. There really are not enough qualified people who are willing to work for the pay and hours the job requires. The article states that only UPS is currently restricting shipments.

    Obviously model rocketry needs engines so that the hobbyist can test their designs, or check if they glued together the prefab cutouts properly. Because there is demand, this restriction opens up some business opportunities. Certain less popular shippers, like Airborne, could hire employees with proper security clearance and advertise the fact. A small surcharge could be added to help defray the added employee cost. Local rocketry enthusiast could work part time building model rocket engines for their friends. There are companies that supply kit that allow you to construct model rocket engines. These could be shipped without the propellent, which could be then be obtained locally. This would allow the individual to build the engines.

    Of course, some of the above solutions my be worse than the problem, resulting in kids blowing off fingers and damaging eyes, but it is all in the name of fear based legislation!

  • Better pick up your copy of Backyard Ballistics [amazon.com] before it gets banned and taken off the market. I wouldn't buy it off Amazon though, or you'll get tagged with that new "potential terrorist" flag. Check out what the people who bought the book also bought. Somewhere out there is a guy who's building a potato-launching warrior robot that can make oragami paper airplanes.
  • by TygerFish (176957) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:21AM (#5343179)
    A nice broad, sweeping, law always seems to be a great idea for people involved in legislative groupthink and there is real irony in the this example.

    Considering the many, well-understood, and readily-available ways of the creating the means for blowing up--hint: *never* apply heat or spark to vaporized gasoline--a legal dragnet that impedes access to things as innocuous as model rocket moters is pure irony.

    You've got to laugh imagining some bearded guy shouting at another, 'put away that fertilizer and help me scrape out nine-thousand number threes!'

    We have proof positive that our government is run by people who were expected to make laws for Disneyland.

  • by mfago (514801) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @09:57AM (#5343478)
    What the fuck: I can purchase 1,000 rounds of 30-06 ammunition, along with a few pounds of power for reloading, but they think that a few Estes model rocket engines are dangerous.

    [sarcasm]
    Outlawing boxcutters I could understand, but this?
    [\sarcasm]

  • by ChrisKnight (16039) <{merlin} {at} {ghostwheel.com}> on Thursday February 20, 2003 @10:00AM (#5343495) Homepage
    From what I read in the article about the increased requirements for background checks and permits for shipping these low-class propellent explosives, I would have say that it looks like it will impact america's favorite patriotic display as well: fireworks.

    Bush, the killer of the 4th of July...

    -Chris
  • by JungleBoy (7578) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @10:22AM (#5343664)
    Does this mean I'm gonna get busted for stockpiling the little card board tubes from paper towel and toilet paper rolls?

    I just went out and bought some estes engines, I guess I should go buy some more quick.

  • by PizzaFace (593587) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @10:49AM (#5343916)
    Goddard Space Flight Center [nasa.gov], outside D.C., had the longest running series of model rocket launches in the country. The twice-a-month launches were well run and closely supervised, but Goddard suspended the program after 9/11. It's a shame; one of my son's earliest memories is a "girl with a green rocket" he saw at a launch I took him to when he was a toddler, and he was excited about flying his own rocket. Now we have to drive 100 miles farther to get to an organized launch.
  • by Wintermancer (134128) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @10:54AM (#5343963)
    Really, I learned a lot more in undergraduate genetics, microbiology, botany and orgainic chemistry courses on how to be a terrorist than I did by launching model rockets.

    Got Botulism? [hc-sc.gc.ca] It might take a while to isolate and identify the proper strain, but terrorists don't have the marketing department breathing down their necks to meet a shipping date. They're patient if they have to be. Once identified, it's just a matter of culturing and refining the toxin.

    Got Ricin? [state.tx.us] Yes, the lovely castor bean plant (ricinus communis) produces a rather nice toxin. Readily available through many plant stores. A bit of applied organic chemistry lab work, and you too can get the desired organic compound.

    Got GB Nerve gas? [uky.edu] Malathion (an readily available and highly used insecticide) and the first component of the binary nerve gas GB are very similar. Any organic chemist worth his money would be able to do some work to make it exactly similar. The other component is isopropol alcohol. You can find that in any drugstore.

    Got FAE? [fas.org] Why bother with ANFO (ammonium-nitrate fuel-oil, the fertilizer bomb that has been used in many, many places) truck bombs? A little bit of applied mechanical engineering and you to can have explosives on par with low-yield nuclear weapons. Sure, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide may be a bit hard to source, but you can use others to get a similar result.

    Or, as was demonstrated by one nutcase in South Korea, all it takes is a determined individual with gasoline to kill many people on a subway.

    Model rockets? Give me a break. Next on the list: slingshots.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @11:10AM (#5344096) Homepage Journal
    They use nitro fuel, which is already under some restrictions, with more to follow..

    I guess hobby's are dangerous..

    Information is dangerous, independent thought must be abolished too.

  • by myrashka (452794) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @11:10AM (#5344099)
    Folks - this seems to me a temporary move until the powers that be at UPS find a way to do the following:

    a) comply with the law
    b) cover the costs of complying with that law
    c) make a profit on the ironic side effects of that law

    So just think - soon, the UPS will be offering a special "hazmat" transport service that transports items like these. The downside - it'll cost more...and thus the items transported will cost more. The question is, are there enough people doing model rocketry (and other similarly affected cargo) to make a profit?

    Lawmakers think they have good intentions at heart - and while I think the laws they are recently proposing/passing are extreme reactions to an extreme event, some of them do make sense to respond to the demands of increased security. It's a tough balance - and sometimes, rather than making the laws more specific, it's better for ingenious Americans to find a way to make a profit...and provide a valuable service - while allowing the Government to do their job - protect us.

    That being said - I oppose many parts of the Patriot and Homeland Security Acts - simply because there's no way to bypass an individual's privacy and liberties...something both of these acts threaten to do....
  • by osgeek (239988) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @11:33AM (#5344342) Homepage Journal
    I used to fly model rockets years ago, and really enjoyed it.

    About 4 years ago, though, I got into remote control (RC) airplanes. That hobby kicks ass. It's not all that expensive, as far as hobbies go. You can get into it for less than $500, then your additional costs are minor if you don't wreck your plane much.

    It's absolutely amazing what a good RC pilot can do with his airplane. The thrust to weight ratio of these planes is well over 1, so it's possible to hover the airplanes in midair.

    Having flown both standard sized and model aircraft, I can tell you that the skills you need to develop for both are roughly the same. Flying model airplanes is a shitload cheaper and less likely to get you killed, though.

    My biggest regret is that I didn't get into the hobby sooner. As with most things, the younger you are when you start, the better you'll be.

    If you're interested, go by any good airplane hobby shop, and there will be some airplane geek there who can tell you how to get started. Better yet, just go to the hobby shop to look around, then ask them where the local model airplane fields are. An airfield will be run by a club that has people who can give you good advice on how to get started and train you how to fly. Plus, you'll get a really good chance to see what you're getting into, if there are some decent pilots showing off.

    One word of advice regarding flying: It's a crapload harder than it looks. Everyone thinks that they'll be flying their first time out. In reality, you'll likely not be flying by yourself for your first 5 outings. Take things slowly, and you won't have to do a lot of plane rebuilding.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday February 20, 2003 @12:01PM (#5344621) Homepage Journal
    America has turned into a nation of fucking whimps. It seems these days that there's nothing that can't provoke us into paroxyms of fear. I saw the cover of Newsweek magazine at the checkout stand yesterday, and the cover story was about anxiety. The graphic was a faux-cutaway of a man's brain, and the two big looming "anxieties" were pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

    Give me a break. Why not show a picture of a Chevy Cavalier? The odds are far greater that the car will run your ass over in the parking lot, than that any terrorist-related act will impact you.

    Does anyone actually take Tom Ridge seriously? Tape up your windows and keep a first aid kit at hand? That reminds me of the "nuclear attack" drill in the Army: Lie down in the the lowest spot you can find and cover your eyes.

    Canada has more guns per person than the United States, but they have less than 50 gun-related deaths per year. Why is that? It's because the Canadians don't live in fear. Yoda had it right, fear *does* lead to hate, and to violence as well.

    The European countries, primarily Britain, Germany, and Italy, have faced their share of terrorism over the years. None of those countries became police states.

    We're all blissfully driving our SUVs around, fat, dumb and happy, and wondering why so many people think of us as spoiled, scared, pathetic, naiive idiots. In a similar fashion, our children will grow up and wonder why everyone else around the world laughs at us when we call ourselves the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

    Before you jump to conclusions, I was an infantry officer in the US Army, I'm not a liberal, and I don't eat granola for breakfast. I'm just sick of watching this country slide further into slack-jawed idiocy.

  • Forget Delivery.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by enigmabomb (459926) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @12:52PM (#5345091) Homepage
    I fly model planes as a hobby. Quite frankly, even for dangerous than a rocket, is a plane. For 150 dollars I have can put a plane in the air with a camera that can take pictures, clear pictures, from several hundred feet in the air. Did I mention it only costs a few bucks to put LEDS on it and fly it at night? Banning model rockets is silly, They won't lift much reliably.

    -enigmabomb-
  • by yndrd (529288) on Thursday February 20, 2003 @01:41PM (#5345536) Homepage
    Model railroaders can tell you that rail fanning (the act of watching trains do train-things in their natural habitats such as yards) is in danger, too.

    Many railfans are being harassed by police who have a lot of pointed questions when they see a sixty-year old man in a Casey Jones hat pointing binoculars at empty boxcars.

No problem is so formidable that you can't just walk away from it. -- C. Schulz

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