Mitch Boese of Newton can remember the first moon landing, and the entire mission, pretty well. He was seven years old, watching it all on television. He can even talk about splash down — July 24 — that brought the mission to a close 50 years ago.
“It is one of my most vivid memories,” Boese said. “I remember watching all of that stuff. It was crazy, it was surreal.”
It’s not clear if that is where his love of rockets was born — Boese has several hobbies including model airplanes and ships. But his basement, and hobby room on the second floor of his Newton home, is dominated by rockets.
He built his first model rocket in high school, a class project. It was in college when the bug bit him.
“A buddy of mine was home from college and he said ‘man, you need to check out the new Estes stuff. They are building bigger stuff now. I bought a phoenix missile (model), lets go launch it,’” Boese said. “… It got about 10 feet off the pad and the engine CATOed (failed). It blew the whole bottom of the rocket off. I mean, he was devastated, but at the same time, I was ‘that was freaking cool.’”
He started buying kits from Estes Hobbies, the largest sport model company in the country. He then moved up to high power rockets, building scale models from scratch.
One of those rockets caught a lot of attention last week, as he pulled it out of the basement and sat it next to the house. It is a 1/35 scale model of the Saturn rocket — including the launch pad and arms — that stands several feet tall.
It’s huge, and one of several in a series of rockets he has modeled.
“I started with the Estes kit, and was like ‘that is cool, but it is not very big,’” Boese said. “And, I wanted to do five motors. I wanted to do my own with five motors. I started playing with it.”
That led to building the Saturn C-1, a Saturn 1B, the 1/35 Saturn V and a 1/70th scale Saturn.
He has also built a Mercury Redstone and a Gemini, scratch building rockets to scale.
He’s actually flown almost all of them — and at the size he builds that is no small task. Boese is a level II certified High Power Rocket modeler. Most of his launches happen as part of a club called Kloud Busters, which launches most often in a field near Argonia. The club will be hosting a national flight day on Labor Day weekend.
It’s there he has watched his models of the Saturn series — and others — fly.
He’s also seen his work be admired — when he posted a photo of his 1/35 model to Facebook, it grabbed more than 150 likes. For the 50th anniversary of the moon mission, he put the rocket next to his house, lit it with a spotlight and left it out as long as it did not rain.
“I had no idea it was going to be that big of a deal,” Boese said. “My neighbor said there were people coming by every day to take pictures of it every day. I had no idea it would be that crazy. That tells you that people are still interested in space flight, and that is really cool.”
That same model was loaned to the Kansas Cosmosphere for several years and placed on display. Not only did the visitors of the center see it, but it was also seen during the 40-year anniversary of the moon mission by crewmembers. Had a ceremony stage in Houston for the 40-year anniversary not been too small, the model would have been displayed there as well.
Boese is reworking the engine bays of his 1/35 model with the intent of launching the rocket again. After that, he said, he would like to find a museum to put it on permanent display.