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John Lee
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John Lee

How long have you been into Sport Rocketry?
"This is my third time around. I got hooked the first time in the 6th grade in about 1975. I was being taken to the toy store in the mall as a reward for my grades. The chemistry set I had been counting on was out of stock. Mom was most pleased that I decided to wait until it came in instead of relying on instant gratification. Then I saw a Centuri Screaming Eagle starter set on the way out and Mom's smile faded quickly. I knew nothing about model rocketry but I was one of those kids who was glued to the TV watching the Apollo missions.

"I loved rockets and built many. A good fraction of them were unsuccessful because I was too impatient and clumsy with my hands. It kept it up until about 1979 when I discovered that paired X chromosomes did have some redeeming qualities after all.

"I got involved again for a short while in the early 90s because I saw a high power kit from LOC. That was exciting and I went off on a building spree and even got certified through Tripoli back when it was a one size fits all affair. I'm not sure the certification proved anything; I used an easy kit and a disposable motor and never did launch another HPR at that time. All too soon, the combination of grad school, taking care of Mom and taking care of my sister's 3 kids meant that I didn't really have an opportunity to pursue things further.

"That's the way things stayed until I finally got married 2 years ago. I wanted to find something to do with my teenage stepson. While in a hobby shop buying him some magic stuff, I saw the rockets again and he seemed mildly interested. I got hooked again.

"This time was different. My stepson did not seem all that interested after nothing blew up but I got hooked. I found a local group to fly with and that was the tipping point. Also, this time around has been good therapy for helping to get over a brain tumor. I had thought that I would never do anything technical again (I used to be an engineer) but rocketry has let me use what's left of my mind. Still, you wouldn't want to ask me to design any bridges these days."
- 09/2008

What organizations are you a member of?
"I am still a member of Tripoli and have a fairly low number there. I also belong to NAR and do most of my flying through my local section, NAR 661, the Alamo Rocketeers. Additionally, I hang out with the Amateur Rocketeers of Texas, an Amateur Rocketry Society of America group."

What level are you certified to?
"Since the old one size fits all certification is not longer valid, I recently recertified as L1 with both NAR and TRA."

What is your all time favorite rocket?
"That depends. The Centuri Screaming Eagle is still a sentimental favorite because it was my entry into rocketry. I just bought one on Ebay and hope to fly it tomorrow. Mostly though, I would have to say it's a Semroc Squire.

"When I got back into rocketry, I went crazy buying things that looked cool. I had never heard of Semroc as a kid but I saw one of their adds and ordered lots. When I was checking out, I was entitled to a free rocket because of the size of the purchase. I chose the Squire. When they came in, I had enough sense to realize that I didn't have the skills to pull off a Mars Lander or Saturn 1B so I built the Squire. It's the oldest rocket I still have and I try to launch it once at every launch window. It's kind of beat up now but still works great and has 34 flights under its belt."

Why do you enjoy supporting the EMRR website?
"There are several reason I love EMRR. It is one of the early sites I stumbled on when I was becoming a BAR and I liked the format. I found it helpful and it got me through a few rough spots in some builds. I am notorious as a mediocre record keeper and have found that entering my flight data gives me all the records I really want...and I don't have to remember where I put them. Mostly, though, is the sense of community. People with a common interest come together to help each other."

Tell me an interesting rocket related experience?
"I think one of the most hilarious (but remember I'm warped) was when I was getting back into rocketry this time around. My wife supported me because she was all for bonding with Bobby. She soon grew tired, though of balsa shavings and such cluttering up the kitchen. She's not all that interested in rockets, in fact I would say she not interested at all.

"Bobby and I did talk her into coming out to see one launch, though. She thought it was kind of boring until she saw the rockets being recovered. She saw the parachutes and her jaw dropped. Up until that point, she thought that we flew them and they "went away". When she realized the rockets were coming back home with me, the look on her face was priceless."

What's your favorite aspect of the hobby?
"Actually, I like seeing the creative things that other people are up to better than anything else. I enjoy building (but not finishing) and flying but when I see the work of others, I am blown away."

Do you have any other hobbies?
"I used to sail on tall ships, I helped crew a barquentine, and still love ships. I love to read and travel. Strangely enough, I love studying liturgy and do it for fun more than work. Baroque organ fugues and bagpipes also rank pretty high on my list.

"What developments would you like to see in sport rocketry? I would like to see the government take a REASONABLE stance towards hobby rocketry. Aside from that, I'd like to see what develops, whether in propulsion, payloads, cool scifi and retro designs or whatever."

Other thoughts?
"Thanks to all those out there who have made this hobby a wonderful experience for me."

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