Jon Austria/The Daily Timesstudents at PVHS launched a 2.5 foot rocket into the air, along with 99 other schools around the state, in honor of NMÕs
Jon Austria/The Daily Times students at PVHS launched a 2.5 foot rocket into the air, along with 99 other schools around the state, in honor of NMÕs centennial bday on Thursday. (Jon Austria)
FARMINGTON — From outer space, NASA Commander Sunita Williams waited to count down for 100 rocket launches at 100 schools in New Mexico on Thursday.

"Are you ready for the countdown?" Williams asked from the International Space Station, heard over speakers at each school.

Locally, eight schools were on the edge of their seats, waiting for their own rockets to take off, including: Piedra Vista High School, Tibbetts Middle School, Esperanza Elementary School, and McKinley Elementary School in Farmington; Charlie Y. Brown Alternative High School, Mesa Alta Junior High School, and Central Primary School in Bloomfield; and Northwest High School in Shiprock.

The remaining 92 schools were from all over the state, all of them taking part in the launch as a way to celebrate the state's 100 years of history, especially that which is rooted in space technology.

From the White Sands Missile Range to Spaceport America, the students learned about it all.

Even the teachers were excited.

"It's going to be kind of neat that we're going to hear the voice of a human being that's not even on the planet," said Kevin Beckner, a Piedra Vista teacher whose freshman honors physical science class organized the launch at their school.

All participating schools received a kit to build a large model rocket, accompanied by instructions for assembly and launch.

Schools also received an accompanying lesson plan and curriculum, which included a copy of the feature film "October Sky," chronicling a young man's effort to build a rocket despite a small town upbringing.

"The example set by astronauts like Commander Williams serves as an inspiration to the hundreds of students that will participate in this event," said Veronica Gonzales, New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs secretary.

The Department of Cultural Affairs donated the 100 rockets to the schools, along with the additional materials.

"Launching this rocket, and watching it soar 1,500 feet allows my imagination to run wild and let me think maybe one of us could be the next scientist working on White Sands Missile Range developing mind-boggling technology," said Brandy McCoy, one of the freshman who worked on the rocket at Piedra Vista.

Students squealed as the countdowns began Tuesday, many of them anxiously awaiting the rocket's race into the air. If any larger, the two-and-a-half foot tall model rocket would have had to airport clearance.

"... Three, two, one," Williams counted down Tuesday.

For some, the students gasped as their rockets hesitated, then they cheered in relief as the rockets shot off with a burst of steam left behind.

Momentarily, the rockets were out of sight, leaving audiences peering upward until they saw a small red parachute tumbling down with the rocket still attached.

Students called the event "a blast."