Two of the three national winners Eric Madrigal, Zachary Johnson and their families arrived at Cape Canaveral on Friday, October, 5th for a two night stay compliments of the award winning Hampton Inn - Cocoa Beach on “the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, where sandy beaches go on for more than thirty miles in both directions.”
The group was greeted at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame by Educator, Bruno Lipniskis, who led the group as the winners launched their rockets while being cheered on by family, teachers and friends. All but one of the rockets, which were supplied by Estes Industries – the world leader in educational rocketry, were recovered to be launched again or displayed at home. One rocket, flown by teacher, Christina Hackey was lost to the trees and remains, “on permanent display at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.”
A private tour followed with inside information about the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. Thoughts and remembrance of the sacrifice of space exploration followed at the Fallen Friends Memorial. Special access to the Space Shuttle Simulator gave each of the winners a chance to sit in the pilot’s seat.
The winners received trophies and certificates at the Mercury 7 tribute wall presented by Astronaut Hall of Fame Educator, Bruno Lipniskis and RFTS Competition national directors, Jack and Kathy Colpas. Both teachers, Christina Hackey and Danielle Miller received certificates for their involvement in Helping Kids Reach for the Stars.
The Competition fosters the memory of the First Teacher in Space, Christa McAuliffe. As a special honour national winners were awarded a Space Shuttle Challenger commemorative coin with insert signed by Christa’s mother Grace Corrigan. Astronaut and author (Spacewalker)
The group continued their celebration by visiting the Space Mirror Astronaut Memorial, standing in the world famous Rocket Garden, seeing an IMAX movie, riding the Shuttle Launch Experience and more in the Kennedy Space Center – Visitor Complex.
Eric Madrigal (age 16) launched at University High School in Orlando, Florida in a competition run by teacher, Danielle Miller. Ms Miller attended the celebration to show her support. Eric was joined by his mother, father and a close friend.
Zachary Johnson (age 14) from Prescott, Arizona got his win at a STEM Summer Camp run by Dr. Brenda Haven at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He was accompanied by his mother Vicki Johnson.
The third winner, Steven Brooks (age 12) was unable to attend. His teacher, Christina Hackey from Crystal River Primary School, Crystal River, Florida received his trophy for him to be presented at school later this year.
Three other national winners, Addie Cramer, Dean Taylor and Oscar Corona have earned the opportunity to celebrate their win at Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Their celebration will take place on October 27th.
While the celebration wrapping up the 6th annual competition was taking place in Florida, the 7th annual Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition was kicking off in West Virginia. Kids launched during the October Sky Festival with a countdown led by non-other than famed author and NASA engineer, Homer Hickam (Rocket Boys / October Sky).
Model rocket manufacturer, Estes Industries, DNC Parks & Resorts at KSC, Inc. and the Hampton Inn - Cocoa Beach have joined together to provide unforgettable memories for the winners of the annual Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition. $200 in travel funding, tickets to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex plus two nights lodging are being provided for the winners and their families. RFTS Competition director, Jack Colpas states, “National winners are promised, memories to last a lifetime and bragging rights for generations to come. Without the generosity of these companies, this would not be possible.”