Twenty people showed up Saturday morning to witness the launch of a Saturn 5 model rocket to commemorate mankind’s first walk on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Montclair native Buzz Aldrin.
Young Sydney Roper, whose family just moved to Westview Road, pressed the firing button after the countdown, at 9:56 a.m. — exactly 12 hours before the 50th anniversary of the moment Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface.
A few seconds later, the model roared up in a rush of smoke and fire. After reaching an apogee of about 200 feet, the rocket tilted over, a parachute ejected, and the model drifted safely back to Northeast School field, where a kid grabbed it. The flight lasted 23 seconds.
Montclair resident Ted Dupont built the rocket and organized the launch as a tribute not only to the crew of Apollo 11, but the entire U.S. manned space program. A retired public relations professional, Dupont watched the live broadcast of the moon landing as a teenager in Hammond, Indiana. He is a lifelong fan of the space program and has built and flown many rockets.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the moon landing than by launching a real scale model Saturn 5 in Buzz Aldrin’s hometown,” said Dupont. “It’s a no-brainer. I’m glad people showed up to take part.”
Local families who gathered on the steamy Saturday morning for the launch didn’t quite know what to expect, as many, especially the kids, had never seen a model rocket launch. But they went away happy — maybe in part because the launch was over so quickly, allowing everyone to get out of the sun on one of the hottest days of the summer.
The Saturn 5 model rocket is a safe, lightweight hobby product manufactured by industry leader Estes Industries. Model rocketry, governed by the National Association of Rocketry, is an effective way to promote STEM education for students.
The rocket launch, taken together with the township’s official (and separate) ceremony honoring the moon landing, marks the latest example of Montclair’s recognition of Aldrin. In September 2016, Mount Hebron Middle School was renamed for Aldrin, who attended the school.