Sandy Rogers? life has taken him on many adventures.
He helped start Eagle Med in Wichita, was in recon with the U.S. Marine Corps, was an emergency medical technician, worked as news director at an AM radio station in Kentucky, was a certified weather observer for aviation, flew planes and helicopters, and did lighting and sound for Minnie Pearl, who appeared for more than half a century at the Grand Ole Opry, and Grandpa Jones, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Rogers also worked in newspapers and did the weather on TV. He even met Elvis Presley, whom Rogers said was ornery but praised him for his generosity.
Even with all of these exploits and fun, Rogers also has seen tragedy as a son was killed in a mid-air collision.
Now, the 73-year-old Rogers is semi-retired, and his exploratory life has taken him to working part time under the education department at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson.
His job includes giving programs in Dr. Goddard?s Lab.
?(Dr. Robert Goddard is) the man who first invented the liquid-fuel rocket,? Rogers said. The first rocket of this kind flew in March 1926.
There?s liquid-fuel rockets and solid-fuel rockets, said Rogers, who knows a great deal about space, rockets and science.
Rogers is quick to give facts about such topics. For instance, he said the temperature on the moon in the direct sunlight is 250 degrees above 0, but if you step into the shade, it?s 250 below 0.
He also said there?s billions of galaxies and billions of stars in those galaxies, and a light year is 6 trillion miles.
There?s also three colors of stars?red, yellow and blue. Blue stars are the hottest, and red stars are those nearing the end of their lives. Rogers said our sun is yellow and will last another 450 million years.
In the Dr. Goddard?s Lab show he does at the Cosmosphere, he soaks a large cotton ball in liquid oxygen, setting it on fire with a blowtorch. He said oxygen isn?t flammable.
?It makes everything else burn, but it will not burn itself,? Rogers said.
When blowing up a cotton ball Aug. 19, Rogers took the ball out of the liquid oxygen and let the cold oxygen drip to the floor. But it didn?t make the floor wet. It seemed to evaporate.
Rogers made the cotton ball out of what appeared to be cotton batting, carefully pulling pieces and putting them together in a ball.
?The thinner you get it, the better it explodes,? Rogers said.
Another thing Rogers does in Dr. Goddard?s Lab is to turn a large water jug into a rocket. First, he squirts the inside of the bottle with methanol and then exposes it to fire after distributing the methanol throughout the bottle.
He, and whoever else does lab shows, tells audiences the bottle for the rocket was donated by the Culligan Space Agency.
?We make a joke out of it,? he said.
Rogers then exposes the opening of the bottle to fire, and flames can be seen inside the large bottle. This usually causes the bottle to thrust backward in a contraption that holds the bottle and safely allows it to travel a short distance.
Rogers does the lab shows behind a plastic screen and said he has the best shows when children are in the audience.
?We have a lot of fun,? he said.
According to the Cosmo?sphere website, ?In a setting that represents the 1930s lab of Dr. Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry, this live rocket show is packed with surprises. ?Demonstrations of God?dard?s early experiments with liquid-fueled rocket engines always end with a bang.?
Another of Rogers? duties is to present Justice Planetarium shows. On Aug. 19, he had an audience of about 15-20 people. Rogers seemed at ease, joking with them and presenting various facts.
The show included a star ball shining points of light, representing stars, onto a large and darkened overhead dome. The show takes the audience through the seasons and ends by showing them the sky on that particular night.
The audience learns about a variety of astronomy topics, including the fact that the red star in Orion?s shoulder is called Betelgeuse, which is pronounced ?Beetlejuice? in America.
In addition to having a star ball for the show, there?s also 28 projectors behind the scenes.
As part of his duties, Rogers also takes a science cart around the Cosmo?sphere.
?Just to let them see some stuff on the side just to keep everybody entertained,? he said.
Rogers has worked for the Cosmosphere for 15 years, and said he enjoys his work. What does he like most about it?
?The people I work with, because it?s a family,? he said. ?It really, really is. The people I get to meet. The people who bring their families back.?
Rogers believes he?s a good fit for the Cosmosphere because he was around when the space program was in its heyday. For example, he recalls when Russia flew Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite.
?We?ve got a Sputnik at the museum down there,? Rogers said.
Rogers enjoys science.
?I?ve always had an interest in (astronomy and science),? he said. ?Didn?t know much about it until I grew up.?
Although Rogers has never been an astronaut, he has flown aircraft. Born in 1941 in southern Ohio, Rogers was raised in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.
?I?m an old fart,? he said. ?I moved to Wichita because I got a job as a pilot.?
Rogers was the chief pilot for Eagle Med, which he started with Jim and Iva Ballard.
?I went to work for him as a charter pilot,? Rogers said. The business started with one airplane and ?then we built it up from there.?
He flew for Eagle Med for eight years as a fixed-wing pilot and then became a freelance pilot. With Eagle Med, most of the flights were hospital-to-hospital transfers, although he also has been to some auto accidents. Attending the flights would be doctors and off-duty paramedics.
Eagle Med, which started as Kansas Air Life, was in competition with Wesley Medical Center?s Lifewatch air ambulance. Eagle Med utilizes fixed-wing planes and helicopters.
As of Aug. 19, Rogers said he has logged more than 15,000 flight time hours. He was grounded from flying commercially after finding out he had diabetes 18 years ago. Sometimes, he still misses it.
But when he quit flying, he started driving tour buses.
?Had a ball doing that,? he said, adding he didn?t make much money at it, though. He drove for about three years and, at one point, he had his own bus.
Rogers was an emergency medical technician for many years and at one time, he and his wife lived in Mount Hope.
?We had a volunteer ambulance service,? he said. ?We made a lot of calls.?
Rogers likes to be involved in his community and said he was part of the Harvey County Senior Patrol and went through the Citi?zens Police Academy in Newton.
Perhaps because of all of his adventures and because all of his kids don?t know his whole life story, Rogers is writing an autobiography, which he?s calling ?Don?t Stand in the Toilet While Flushing.?
As of Aug. 19, he had written about the first 12 years of his life. However, the book starts in 1976 when he crashed a World War II plane and blacked out. The plane went out of control, and the air traffic controller wasn?t helping him, he said.
?They weren?t answering me,? Rogers said.
A month prior to Rogers? incident, a commercial jetliner crashed near Wash?ington, D.C., leaving many passengers dead. Rogers said the air traffic controller was asked why he didn?t warn the aircraft of the mountaintop it was about to crash into. He said, ?I wasn?t required to,? Rogers said.
Rogers found out he was unfortunate enough to have had that same air traffic controller when he crashed.
Sandy Rogers? life has taken him on many adventures.