World's First Astrogator
March 1965 Science & Mechanics

June 1941 Popular Science
June 1941 Science Popular Science - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

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World's First Astrogator

Here's how an alligator took a 1000-mph trip in a three-stage model rocket and was recovered by means of an emergency chute!

Author and rocketeer Allen Wechter poses with electronic monitor used in the highly automated launching. He's in high school.

The baby alligator is loaded just before launching time for rocket.

Within the last decade, everything from mice to men have been cramped into a tiny capsule, put aboard a rocket, and fired through the ocean of air surrounding our planet.

Not long ago in Flushing, N.Y., something new took a journey through that ocean of air. It wasn't a mouse and it wasn't a man. I put up the first rocket-launched alligator in the world!

The 'gator was hurtled several miles high - and down-range at about 1000-mph in a three-foot-high model rocket. The alligator was fastened on a contoured couch and placed in an oxygen-filled capsule which was the top stage of the rocket.

At T minus 0 seconds, the rocket was fired electronically and lifted off the launch pad. It soared straight up to an altitude of 3000 ft., when the stages separated and the second stage fired. The capsule was boosted to a peak altitude of 8500 ft. At that time, the capsule was ejected away from the second stage. At the moment the capsule separated, the parachute of the second stage exploded out, while the capsule itself kept dropping. Then just as I hoped, the electronic brain within the capsule fired the emergency parachute, as the main chute failed to deploy. For over 20 minutes the capsule drifted in the air until finally it touched down two miles away from the launch site. We recovered the capsule and unstrapped the astrogator to discover that he was unscratched and in excellent physical condition. The flight was a complete success! - Allen Wechter