We had a lot of fun with Estes rockets as kids, but you can only afford so many rocket engines on a weekly allowance so our launches were few and far between. Inevitably the rocket would blow up, get lost, or plummet to its death and the fun would be over until we could afford a new one.
One alternative was a little handheld water rocket. It consisted of a small, "futuristic" plastic rocket and a little handheld pump/launcher. You put a little water in the rocket, attached it to the launcher--making sure to slide the locking mechanism in place--and then pumped until you couldn't pump anymore. By then water started to leak and if you didn't hurry and launch all of the precious pressure would escape.
It was a great toy, even if the launches were only 20 to 30 feet high. The problem was reentry. A hard plastic rocket doesn't fare well after repeated crash landings into the sidewalk and your parent's rooftop. Not only was it difficult to glue back together strong enough to hold pressure, but you couldn't buy replacement rockets at the store. You'd have to buy a whole new kit.
Today's water rockets are similar to those little gadgets with a few exceptions: they are bigger, the rockets go much higher, and the whole setup is easy and cheap to make at home. Over the next few pages we'll talk about the launcher, air pumps, rockets, and even parachutes. Follow that up with advanced techniques, including rocket launched wireless video cameras.
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