Entering the World of Space Exploration

Looking Back



Entering the World of Space Exploration 


By Ron Munden 

I had a great childhood.  I had every boy’s dream.  I lived alone in my own apartment at age thirteen. 

My parents, twin sister and I lived at 902 East Burleson for all of my life up until I left for college.  For 12 years Carol and I shared a bedroom.  As we got older my parents thought it was not proper for my sister and I to share the room. However there was one small problem  – we lived in a two bedroom house.  The question was “What do we do with Ronnie?”  I was too old to room with my sister but too young to join the Army.  My parents had a problem – me.

My dad was alway a problem solver.  As usual he found a solution to this problem.  Actually he found the solution to two problems.  The house did not have a garage and dad really wanted one for parking the car and his work tow truck.

Dad decided to think big.  Why build a two bay garage? Why not three bays?  One for the car, one for the tow truck and one for Ronnie.

I loved this solution.  What made it so great was that the garage was built as a separate building from the house and the bay nearest the house was for the car, the next one for the tow truck and at the end bay was my room.

My room was “rustic”.  A concrete slab floor and raw wood walls and ceiling. What made it perfect is that my dad built a workbench into the back wall and ran a gas line with a connection for my bunsen burner.

The room had no running water or a bathroom but that was no problem.  There was a vacant lot behind the house with tall grass.  My canteen solved the water problem.

This room doubled as my bedroom and science lab.  My friend Danny McKay and I constantly ran experiments.  We tried to boil everything using the bunsen burner.  This included trying to boil the mercury that we had taken from Mr. Ross’ science storage room at the Junior High School. ( I am assuming that there is a statute of limitation on stealing mercury – if not Danny did it.)

Fortunately our mercury evaporation experiment failed and we are both living today.  Who would have ever thought mercury was poisonous?

On October 4, 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth.  The 187 pound, basketball sized object became a “superstar”  overnight . It became the talk of the town and the nation.  The United States entered the space race as did Danny and I.

We decided that we should build a weather balloon that could be detected by the radar at Barksdale Air Force Base. 

Our resources were limited.  We had half a dozen used plastic bags from clothes taken to the cleaners, a roll of masking tape from my dad’s body shop, a roll of copper wire I used on electrical projects, and a roll of aluminum foil from mom’s kitchen.  We also had an infinite supply of natural gas from the rubber hose connected to my bunsen burner.

The plastic bags from the cleaners were not in good shape.  We used masking tape to seal holes and copper wire to close the ends of the bags.

We used the rubber hose and our wind power to blow air into the bags so we could check for leaks.  Finally we declared the pre-flight test complete and we were ready for launch.

On launch day we assembled the four bags that had held air.  We cut strips of aluminum foil about 2 inches  wide and four feet long.  We use wire to connect them together.

At NASA, the rocket fueling phase is the most dangerous part of any mission.  The same is true when filling cleaning bags with natural gas using a rubber hose.

Our problem was that about as much gas leaked into my bedroom as got into the cleaning bags.  Actually, a post launch analysis revealed that about nine units of the natural gas went into the room for every one unit that got in the plastic bags.

We did know that it was not good to breathe natural gas but the gas connection was in the back of the room – about 20 feet from the door of the room.  So a person would fill his lungs with air, run to the back of the room and start filling a plastic bag.  The other person stood outside the door filling his lungs with air.  On a signal the person outside the room would run to the back of the room and relieve the person filling the bags.  That person would run out of the room to get air.  This process continued until the four bags had enough natural gas to allow them to float.

We took the four bags outside, tied them together with wire and attached the aluminum foil to the craft.  Without delay we launched.

At about 4:30pm we watched as the four bag craft lifted into the sky.  Sun reflected off the foil as the craft ascended.  We watched until we could no longer see the bags.  We declared the mission a success.  Since a breeze took the bags East, we were sure it would be detected by Air force radar.

The next day the Marshall News Messenger carried a story about a Sputnik Observation group spotting Sputnik just after 5pm the previous day. We were sure that they had spotted our craft, not Sputnik. 

Years later I realized the group had not seen our craft.  However it was more likely they saw our cleaning bags than a basketball sized object flying through space.


Neither Danny nor I went to work for NASA but another Marshall boy, Paul Kelley, did after receiving his math degree from the University of Texas.  I did visit Paul while he was living in Houston.  So I almost made it to NASA.


GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK.  CLICK ON “COMMENT” TO TELL US WHAT YOU THINK or use one of the alternative methods for providing feedback.

Click here to submit feedback.  Let us know what you think.

click here to CLOSE THIS PAGE


Click here to go the the EastTexasExposed.com website

Click here to go to the iExposed.us website



P.O. Box 721

Scottsville Texas


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s