To infinity and beyond: Mudd Amateur Rocketry Club explores rocket science

Members of the Mudd Amateur Rocketry Club traveled to the Lucerne Dry Lake on Oct. 12 for the Rocketry Organization of California’s ROCtober launch event. (Courtesy of Natalie Krieger)

College is difficult, but it’s not rocket science — unless you’re a member of the Mudd Amateur Rocketry Club.

Comprised of 40 members and open to all 5C students, MARC meets weekly in the Mudd Makerspace, where club members collaborate and toil to build their own rocket in time for the next rocket launch. Each month, the club travels out to Lucerne Dry Lake in Lucerne Valley, California, and they launch the rockets they’ve built with prior approval from the Rocketry Organization of California. 

MARC vice president Edward Jacobs HM ’22 said a big part of the club was letting students know what they’re capable of. 

“Our number one goal is to get people excited about rocket science,” he said. “Our club shows that it is possible with not that much time to actually put together your own model rocket and launch it.” 

A male college student stands in the desert, holding a broken rocket.
Nathan Sunbury HM ’21, a member of the Mudd Amateur Rocketry Club, holds the remnants of his rocket. (Courtesy of Natalie Krieger)

Club member Jason Misleh HM ’22 acknowledged that the challenge of crafting a rocket allows for a healthy collaborative dynamic despite the individuality of the projects.

“Although everybody needs to build their own rockets … it’s a pretty good family dynamic,” he said. 

Benjamin Khoury HM ’22 joined with a previous interest in rocket science and benefited from the tight-knit nature of the club.

“I like rocketry, [so] when I saw this opportunity, I thought, ‘Oh, that’s really cool,’ but I didn’t really want to do it alone,” he said. “That would be a lot [alone], since you have to drive … out to the desert, and you might not know what you are doing. But the expertise of everyone [assured me] I could do this realistically, and I’ve had a lot of fun.”

Misleh said the club unfortunately often encounters rocket pitfalls due to the high stakes, “one-shot” nature of rocket launching.

“When you’re launching these kinds of rockets with very powerful motors, there are a lot of little details that, if you mess up during the construction, you can’t go back and fix,” Misleh said. “[You want to] make sure there is not horrible damage to it.”

Khoury agreed, recounting a time in which his rockets did in fact sustain horrible damage.

“[My first launch], two or three rockets were a success out of six,” he said. “It was funny, because we got [to the launch location] and were thinking, ‘We are confident. We know what we are doing,’ and then we got up there and made a lot of mistakes [and] half of them failed … We just didn’t know what to expect.”

Jacobs said mistakes are part of the process and urges those who are interested not to be intimidated. 

“I am very excited that there is a club and a space dedicated to aerospace and rocketry,” he said. “I know a lot of people may be intimidated by it, but it’s actually not that scary — and I invite them to stop by and and basically see what they think of it.” 

MARC’s next launch is Dec. 14, and the group is already hard at work preparing for it.  

“This should be one of our largest, if not the largest launch of the year,” Jacobs said.

MARC launches monthly and is always accepting new members. Meetings are held in the Mudd Makerspace weekly on Sundays at 1 p.m.

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