Frequently asked questions:
1. How high do rockets fly at a MARS launch?
The limit as granted in a waiver from the FAA is 12,000 feet. This maximum is determined by the size of the site and proximity of inhabited buildings and the SUNY Geneseo college campus. However, the average height of most high power rockets (those flown on H or larger motors) flown at MARS is between 2,000 and 5,000 feet. Low power rockets flown on Estes black powder motors fly between a couple hundred feet and 2,000 at the high end- usually for staged models.
2. Is a rocket launch safe?
MARS runs launches following the National Association of Rocketry safety code and all national, state and local rules. These guidelines have been used for several decades of rocketry in the US and the hobby has a stellar safety record. Of course it is important that everyone attending a launch pays close attention to the rockets in the air. No activity is without risk but at MARS we strive to mitigate the risk as much as possible. Every effort is made to keep rockets from over flying the crowd.
3. Are there: Shelter, Food, Facilities available?
Mars does not provide shelter or food service. We do arrange for portable toilets to be at every launch. We suggest you bring water, sun screen, snacks if you wish (Geneseo is very close by), extra clothing, more water, folding chairs, sun glasses…. the list can go on. The weather can vary from morning to afternoon; some days start off cool and damp and by 3pm it’s sunny and 80 degrees. Plan for everything including a passing shower. Many members use “Easy-up” style shade canopies as these provide affordable shelter.
4. Health and Safety?
MARS has a basic first aid kit available at every launch. Be sure to bring water if the weather is hot and sunny. It is very easy to get dehydrated out in the sun for a few hours. If you have a long walk to retrieve a rocket please take a phone and water with you. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding your rocket and forget about your well-being. The MARS site is close to a town with emergency services in the case of a serious medical problem.
5. I’m new at this, are you friendly?
Every single member of MARS was new at this at one time or another. We are excited to have people come out to see what the hobby is all about. Everyone is willing to help out a “newbie” with a rocket: how to prep it for flight, how our launch system works, and finding it again in the sky after it vanishes on a column of smoke. Bring your family and friends! Everyone flying low power (Estes motors, E and under) is welcome to fly free to “try out” the club and its facilities. If you wish to fly more than very occasionally, we encourage you to join the club to help us maintain the equipment and subsidize the Porta-John. A new low power membership is just $10!
6. Can I bring my kids?
Of course!?! But- they must be supervised at all times by you, not us. They need to follow all the range rules and many kids need adult supervision to do this. They are welcome to fly rockets as long as they have adult help with prep, loading, and recovery. Please ask your kids to look with their eyes- some of our rockets are expensive or primed with black powder charges or have sharp fins. We know that kids are the future of the hobby and hope to encourage them as much as possible and get them hooked on rocketry. Mom and Dad are welcome to fly their rockets, too! Note: very young children can be scared (to tears) by high power rockets as they are VERY loud. If in doubt, send Mom and Dad to check it out first before bringing the little ones. When you decide you like this hobby we ask that you consider joining the club. A new low power family membership is just $10 for the first year.
7. I have a rocket I made out of some old PVC and glued metal fins on it…. can I fly it?
Ok, not exactly frequently asked. But the answer is NO. The NAR requires a Range Safety Officer to be present at all hours a launch is running. The RSO’s job is not to make your life difficult but to insure compliance with the NAR safety codes (see link in resources page) and local rules. The RSO will check your rocket for basic safety issues (motor retention, construction, proper CG, etc) and also set the angle rockets fly from. Rockets are easily constructed from paper tubes and balsa or basswood fins and plastic nose cones. They fly better when made of these materials than other odd-ball stuff. Consider a kit for your first few rockets and then buy rocketry materials if you wish to design your own rockets.
8. What is the flight line? Why are all the rocket camps lined up in a row?
At the MARS flying field we arrange a flight line that is perpendicular to a line drawn from the pads to the HAG buildings. Our safety code disallows rockets from flying over the crowd, and our local rules keep rockets from flying towards the HAG. We kill two birds with one stone. When rockets are being flown, NO-ONE is allowed in front of the flight line except the Launch Controller (LCO). When the LCO announces that the range is “cold”, rockets are done being flown. At that point you may cross the flight line to retrieve your rocket, load a new one, replace an igniter, etc. When the range goes “hot”, everyone must be back behind the flight line. The flight line insures everyone is at the necessary distance from the pads per safety code and insurance requirements.
9. Do you have vendors selling rocketry stuff at your launches?
Yes! Ken Allen with Performance Hobbies attends nearly every MARS launch. He carries a full line of everything. Ken has small kits by Estes, Fliskits, Semroc, and more. He also carries mid and high power rocket kits, components, parachutes, rocket motors from A to M by a variety of manufacturers. Please check his website www.performancehobbies.com for contact information and schedule.
10. What should I leave at home?
Pets, alcoholic beverages, 4-wheelers and dirt bikes, firearms, fireworks. Many dogs do not do well with rockets- the rockets either scare them or make them bark. ATVs can cause damage that would cause the landowner or surrounding farmers to evict us. Alcohol does not mix with rocketry (and violates the safety code), you won’t need to shoot anything, and fireworks are illegal in New York.