Could an "Astronaut Farmer" mission actually succeed?

The “Astronaut Farmer” movie with Billy Bob Thornton shows a rocket scientist, living on a farm, able to build an apollo like rocket with spare parts and rocket fuel.

Could such a thing happen, realistically? A genius-level rocket scientist, with scrapped rocket materials from NASA, and enough room? Would there be any law against an unarmed rocket being lauched?

Clearly it is not against the laws of physics, and therefore possible, but could a private ‘farmer’ pull it off?

Well, to start with, an unauthorized launch of a rocket large enough to carry a person just might set off a few alarms at NORAD, especially given today’s climate of fear.

Ah but is there any law against it? I would imagine authorization could be gotten, as the rocket is unarmed.

I doubt that he could manage anything that could reach the Moon. As for something smaller, I recall ( vaguely ) some years ago reading about a scientist or engineer of some sort who built his own Titan missile. Which is impressive, but no Moon mission.

Meet Robert Truax. He was a Navy rocket scientist who built the X-2 ‘Skycycle’ that Evel Knievel used to attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon. He also built the ‘X-3 VolksRocket’, which was a manned rocket built using surplus parts, and which was designed to make it into suborbital space, much like Burt Rutan’s SpaceshipOne. I wouldn’t be surprised if Truax was the inspiration for the Astronaut Farmer.

Here’s a link with some details of his plans.

Just to clarify, the goal of the mission was not to go near the moon, just an outerspace “low orbit” tour.

Even if you built it, what’s it cost to fuel a rocket capable of going into low-earth orbit? I’d think just that step would be forbiddingly expensive for an individual.

Probably not a “law” per se (IANAL–maybe some of the TM from the legal profession could shed some light?), but I would imagine there would be any number of “environmental impact studies” or similar types of red tape that would have to be done before such a mission could be undertaken. I would think launching said mission without those prerequisites would probably violate some laws.

Hey, you wanted “realistic”–government red tape is about as realistic as it gets! :smiley:

Just because you’re a rocket scientist doesn’t mean that you have all of the disciplines under your belt needed to launch a craft. There’s a lot of comptuer processing and modelling and stuff you need to have that would be difficult to accomplish alone.

You’d need several tons of very particular materials for fuel, which would most likely cost a good fortune, if even accessible to private citizens in large enough quantities.

You’d need machinery that allowed you to build things to very particular tolerances. Just because you have access to the parts doesn’t mean that you have the capability of putting it together well enough. And anything you tried to fashion yourself would most likely be unsuitable, again, unless you had the ability to meet strict tolerances. Most likely you’d be restricted to building something that was essentially already built and designed and was simply in parts.

Overall, it would be mostly infeasible to construct anything larger than maybe 10 feet long–which would probably already be inordinately heavy–and I’m not sure whether that’s got the fuel mass to break out of orbit.

Earthly rocket, yes certainly you could build one. Apollo? No…I’d be highly doubtful.

Yes. When you get into model rocketry there are altitude limitations that require certification to move beyond. Same with model airplanes. You have to be certified to fly jet models.

Beyond that you have to be a pilot and have a flight plan for high altitude flight.

Oh, and the rocket represented in the movie was financially beyond farmer Brown’s budget, even if purchased as spare parts for pennies on the dollar.

To be fair, it was essentially a Mercury style capsule - not Apollo level complexity.

And an instrument rating to go with your pilot’s license.

Would it? Has NORAD fixed the hole in the radar over the North American continent?

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/1227842.html?page=3

Also needed: Vacuum worthiness certificate

Interesting movie. To think of all the skills he would have to possess to even attempt this (plus the $$). NASA only hires the cream of the crop and they’ve had many setbacks. This ‘you can do anything’ message is scary.

Moderating:
Welcome bday55 and happy birthday if that is indeed what your UID means. But please do not revive old threads (we call them zombies) unless you have something useful to add. Thread closed.