Valley AeroSpace Team “Rockets” Into Highland County
Monterey, VA – A dozen rockets were launched Saturday just miles south of Monterey off route 220. The Valley AeroSpace Team (VAST) held rocket demonstrations for an audience who came from all over Virginia. Hailing from the Shenandoah Valley, the Valley AeroSpace Team is a chartered Prefecture of the Tripoli Rocketry Association and a chartered Section of the National Association of Rocketry.
Members of the association design, build, and perfect rockets that are launched thousands of feet into the air. The aerospace team holds meeting, workshops, and launches for the purpose of aiding and encouraging all those interested in rocketry. Rocket designers and members of the club vary in all ages and occupations. Currently, there are 44 members of the club and half of which are children of the adult members.
Founder of the club, Chuck Neff, talks about how his love for rockets developed and how is hobby became a passion.
“I started building rockets,” says Neff, “when I was a teenager. I got out of it for awhile but got back into it in 1999. In 2005 I founded the club with my father and two uncles and we have grown to about 44 members since.”
Neff’s story of his early love for rockets is a common thread running through the lives of all the adult participants. There love of rocketry and science developed early and has continued throughout their lives. As the club’s newsletter says, not all can work at NASA, so this is the next best thing.
Walter Krohn of Harrisonburg, Va., is a member as his son and daughter. He talks about why he encouraged his children to get involved.
“I got my ten-year-old and seven-year-old,” says Krohn, “into it so they could have something to do as well as a hands-on experience in rocketry. It instills in them the patience and responsibility to carry something out once they have started. They also get to be outside which is a bonus too.”
The rocket launches went off as planned and gave the audience a show of smoke and sound as the rockets propelled up to 2,000 ft in the air. The VAST was thrilled to give the people of Highland County a demonstration of their talents, but the demonstration site just south of Monterey was chosen by default after the team couldn’t launch from their accustomed spots.
“There are only three real launch sites in Virginia,” says Neff. “The one in Culpeper can not be used year-round because of farm fields with crops. We had one in Swoope but we were shut down by Augusta County because we needed a special use permit. When we applied they denied us and now we are in court with them.”
The contentious feelings with Augusta County were put on hold as the VAST provided audiences in Highland County with a show.