World's Largest Model Rocket Launch Is Blazing Success

Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
April 27, 2009

At nearly four stories tall, the world's largest model rocket was only a tenth the size of a real rocket. But the craft's April 25 launch in Price, Maryland, was no small feat.


A replica of a NASA Saturn V rocket, the massive model broke the world record for the tallest and heaviest model rocket that's ever been launched and recovered—36 feet (11 meters) and 1,648 pounds (750 kilograms), respectively.

After soaring to 4,441 feet (1,354 meters), the machine broke into several parts, as planned, and deployed parachutes before landing about a half mile (0.8 kilometer) from the launchpad, amid loud clapping from spectators.

The model's designer, Ohio auto-body specialist Steve Eves, is a child of the space race—"something that's stuck in my mind all these years," he said.

But Eves, 51, didn't get into high-power rocketry until the early 1990s. And when he did, he had no inkling how big his pet project would get, he said.

The giant model and Saturday's launch—attended by about 5,000 spectators—cost U.S. $30,000, much of it covered by donations.

(Also see: "'Jet Man' Crosses English Channel Like a Human Rocket.")

Eves planned the project as a tribute to the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned trip to the moon, which launched on July 16, 1969.

During 13 NASA missions in the 1960s and '70s, the original Saturn V rockets—still the most powerful in history—never failed. In Eves's eyes, that makes the Saturn V class "the greatest rocket that mankind has ever built."

Remembering seeing a Saturn V in person, Eves said: "Until you stood at the base of one those rockets, [you can't] imagine the courage it took" for people to take them into space. "It's mind-boggling."

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