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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Record Breaking Water Bottle Flight


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I admit it, this has got to be one of the coolest videos I have seen in a long, long time.

Supplied by Google Video which now allows you to link to them like this, this video shows how the Folks at Antigravity Research which makes Water Bottle Rockets in different configurations for public and school use, pursued and beat the world record for water bottle rocket flight, with an altimeter recorded flight of 1,424 feet.

Now if they had only shown us a video of the flight itself that would have been impressive in and of itself, because unlike most videos of water bottle or propellent based rocket flights their video is very clear due to a high quility camera and a special rocket camera boom designed to follow the flight seamlessly.

Rocket buffs take note. This is cool cheap photo engineering. You want to see this video just to see the design of the boom.

The video of the record breaking flight is very compelling. From the second of liftoff you know you are seeing something special. Especially after seeing lots of other rocket videos on Google Video.

I mean for one, that rocket sizzles on take of like none you have ever seen and climbs almost straight up, its skeek black form slicing through the sky like a torpedo on speed. The angle of the shot perfectly highlights it so that it is not lost in the sun for a second as it climbs until it finally starts to slow and arcs and the parachute pops out almost too early.

If there is any doubt how high the rocket has reached, the 84 second descent, beautifully accented by the music that accompanies the whole video, of the rocket slowly dancing down, lazily waltzing with its white and red partner, the pair swinging gently in the wind until they come down behind the trees.

Then the dramatic moment as we listen to the beeping of the altimeter.

Beep Beep
Beep Beep Beep Beep
Beep Beep

1 - Beep
2 - Beep Beep
4 - Beep Beep Beep Beep
2 - Beep Beep

It is repeated once or twice more so that there is no possible doubt what we have heard, 1242, 1,242, one thousand four hundred fourty two feet.

With a reinforced plastic bottle pumped up with water, air, and dish soap.

The first few minutes are enough to satisfy most people.

But it gets better. Because the film does not end there. It continues to tell the story about how they got there. You feel like you are watching the Wright brothers or Eric Von Braun - better analogy - watching rocket after rocket explode.

And there's no doubt about it, if you want to see experimental failure after experimental failure, with lots of plastic water bottle explosions and crashes, and I do mean LOTS, then this is the movie for you.

Note: Unlike Von Braun, there seem to have been no fatalities in the making of this film, although wetness was a clear hazard and some equipment was mutilated beyond repair besides rockets. Luddites (who shouldn't be using a computer - naughty, naughty, take note.)

But there is no despair here. They are having fun. They love rockets and they laugh of just about every disaster although clearly the tension mounts as they know that they are getting close.

What is interesting about all of this is that water as a propellant has very interesting environmental benefits. What if it could be used in some way as a real orbital or sub-orbital package delivery system, say U.S. to China, or Australia?

Could they ever get the G-forces down to the point where people could be safely launched and land in such a manner? ARE we seeing the Wright brothers in action here? After all, they did work out of a bicycle shop.

It all sounds a little crazy until you see how fast and how high that record setting rocket goes and you hear what their next goal is.

But as Sweeney Todd (Sondheim) says "But that's the play(movie) and he(they) wouldn't want me to give it away..."

Please let me know what you thought of this with a comment. Sometimes the comment link is hard to see, but I promise you it's there. Really.


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