Russellville elementary students participate in world record rocket launch

July 16 the U.S. Space & Rocket Center marked the 50th anniversary of the July 16, 1969, launch that put the first men on the moon. In homage to the milestone anniversary, the rocket center planned a special record-breaking event – and with Russellville’s historic success in student rocketry programs, Russellville City Schools decided to get in on the action.

The Saturn V rocket, designed in Huntsville, was used to make the 1969 moon launch possible. It took place at Cape Kennedy and included the Apollo 11 crew: Commander Neil Armstrong, Lunar Lander Pilot Buzz Aldrin and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins.

To commemorate their achievement, 5,000 model rockets were launched together at 8:32 a.m. at the Space and Rocket Center July 16, breaking a Guinness World Record. This launch shattered the previous world record of 4,231 model rockets, which were launched at Teylingen College in the Netherlands as part of a European Space Science Convention in 2018. 

Russellville City Schools Tiger Paws Summer Program partnered with Franklin County 4-H to provide an opportunity for local children to join in this global activity. 

Elizabeth Alonzo, 4-H agent assistant for the Franklin County Extension office, instructed and assisted with indoor rocket launch activities for Russellville Elementary and West Elementary. “We built rockets using straws, index cards, stickers and play dough,” Alonzo said. “This was an excellent opportunity for the students to apply critical thinking skills in hands-on science experiments.” 

Three groups at each school participated in the rocket creation and launch.

Rocket science can be tricky, though. Not all student rockets launched properly. “If a rocket failed to launch, the child was able to consider what happened and implement changes and attempt launching again,” explained Angela Crittendon, site coordinator for RES Tiger Paws.

The point wasn’t merely to have fun launching rockets or even just to experience the joy of being part of setting a world record. 

Kristie Ezzell, director of the RCS summer program, said it was important for the students to understand the magnitude of what was accomplished 50 years ago and to be part of a historic moment by participating in the world record-setting global rocket launch. “We participated in a worldwide effort – something to bring us all together to look toward the future as we remember where we have come from and what has been achieved so far.” 

Beth Forsythe, site coordinator for the WES program, added, “We are so happy to have been able to be a part of this special Guinness Book of World Records event. Participating in the global rocket launch was a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn about and appreciate the past while looking toward the future.”

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