Rocket Men

In their Apollo 13 meets Jackass TV show, this father-son team straps rockets to stuff—say, a Mini Cooper—and makes it fly.

Man has always dreamed of flight, but real men dream of making a La-Z-Boy soar. Real men Dan and Terry Stroud made their dreams come true.

The father and son happen to have a hobby that requires an FAA-approved launch window: they are rocketeers. And, in that circle at least, the Dallas men are semi-famous. They were invited to Las Cruces, New Mexico, in early October to launch one of their 20-foot Aurora rockets 30,000 feet into the air at twice the speed of sound. The spectacle kicked off the next phase of the X Prize Foundation’s program to popularize space travel.

Given a launch window, Dan and Terry will strap a rocket to just about anything and make it fly. A sofa. A washing machine. A small house.

“Probably the coolest thing we’ve done is launch a Mini Cooper through a football goal post,” says Dan, 62, who was an assistant on NASA’s Dryden Aerospike Rocket project. “It was supposed to go a few hundred feet but went 2,000.”

The stunt was performed for their reality TV show, Master Blasters, which aired until recently on the Sci Fi Channel. The show pitted teams of amateur rocketeers against the Strouds. It’s one part Apollo 13 and two parts Jackass. In one episode, the teams were kicked out of Texas Motor Speedway. The offense: making a rocket-propelled car go too fast. The Sci Fi Channel is shopping the show around to other networks.

If the show doesn’t get picked up, the Strouds still have day jobs. They own Orbital Machine Works, an optical research equipment company that does repairs on giant wind turbines. Terry, 37, also owns ScoreCube, a software company with clients such as the Dallas Mavericks.

It isn’t rocket science, but at least it pays the bills.

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