Spaceport America Cup rocketry competition weathers rain and mud

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES −After climbing through the driver’s side window of his minivan, with his shoes and socks soaked in mud, Noah Charleson-Sterritt peered across the surrounding ranchlands and assessed his options.

His mobile phone had no signal, meaning he could not call or text his teammates who were waiting for him at Spaceport America, several miles away.

His team, consisting of about a dozen University of British Columbia students, was preparing to launch a rocket Thursday afternoon aiming for an apogee of 30,000 feet as part of its entry in the world’s largest intercollegiate rocketry competition, the Spaceport America Cup.

The team had made the trip from Vancouver to Las Cruces, New Mexico in two automobiles. One those vehicles was now mired deeply in a deep puddle from the previous day’s rains on an unpaved county road. Some distance down the road, calves found relief from the desert heat by lying down in the mud.

“I didn’t think it was that deep,” he said. “I was mostly focused on getting back in time because we’re waiting for everybody for launch.”

Fortunately for Noah, a Federal Express driver happened to drive up the road, and offered him a satellite phone. He was told a tow truck might take two hours to arrive; so instead, trusting the security of his minivan to the cows, he accepted a ride back to the spaceport where, he hoped, staff might be able to pull him out of the mud.

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