Setting up
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Up, up and away

Scores of enthusiasts turn out for a model rocket competition at the federally managed Lucerne Dry Lake east of Victorville. The twice-a-year ROCstock is emblematic of the transformation of what used to be a simple boyhood hobby into extreme rocketry. (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Extreme rocketeers launch their entries during the competition at Lucerne Dry Lake. The subculture is dominated by middle-aged men who harness technology (fueled by the ample application of credit cards and even home refinancing) as they pursue ever-greater thrust and altitude. (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Mark Hanson, president of the Rocketry Organization of California, sponsor of ROCstock, tends to his own rockets between event duties. His day job is lighting the sets of television’s “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Many of the rockets are so large they require more than one person to move them to their launch position. (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
For participants at Lucerne Dry Lake, it is rocket science. Here, a contestant watches the Green Goblin, owned by Jim Bauer of Arcadia, lift off. (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Spectators try to track a model rocket during the competition at ROCstock. (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Building a rocket from cardboard, plywood and fiberglass -- and getting it aloft like this one -- calls for skill in carpentry, electronics and aerodynamics. The rockets need to be light enough to fly yet structurally sound enough to hold together. (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)