I discovered this show by reading one of Travis Talyor’s non-fiction books, A New American Space Plan. While this post is about the TV show, pick up this book as well. It’s a well laid out case of why American should be serious about getting into space again and how to do it.
Also take the time to watch the show, Rocket City Rednecks, either by streaming or on optical disk. This show is about five self-identified Rednecks from Huntsville, AL, two of which are actual rocket scientists from NASA who actually build working gear. Really cool gear that works. OK, it works most of the time, but even when they fail, they learn from their mistakes so then can do it better the next time. That is really one of the important lessons. It’s OK to fail, as long as you learn from it. Most of the gear is built in Travis’ father’s garage. Charles Travis is a retired NASA machinist who worked on the Apollo program, and one of the five Rednecks who star in the show.
I’ve watched about a third of the first season so far, and they have built some really nifty gear so far. These include a still in order to build a moonshine fueled rocket, the actual rocket, a balloon based observation platform, a working submarine, a radio telescope array using 18″ satellite dishes, under vehicle armor capable of withstanding an IED blast (they drove the pickup truck away afterwards), and a working “Iron Man” suit, that had armor capable of stopping 9mm handgun rounds, lifting over 100 pounds with a single arm and fired rockets!
Just to add to the overall coolness of this, most of their projects are done over a single weekend with a budget of about $1000. Keep in mind that three of these Rednecks are current or former NASA employees. The two active ones have eight advanced degrees in science between them (Travis has five post-graduate degrees. For those of you who know me, yes, that is one more than Amy currently has). Rog (Rednect #4) doesn’t have any advanced degrees, but he does have a genius level IQ, and Michael (Travis’ nephew) is mechanically inclined and studying to be a machinist. Still, if you know basic work working, basic welding, how to solder two wire together, and some basic programming, you and your friends could try some of this stuff.
Which is kinda the whole idea of the show. To get kids off the XBox and out there building go carts, rockets, radio sets and other cool gear.
This is the kind of show my dad would have loved. He was 22 year veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers, and would have been out teaching kids how to to build the things the Rednecks are building.