Rocket science is still rocket science, so make sure you know the specifics of the rocket you want to build. This has gotten easier because there is so much information out there. Not so much online, but libraries are free and open anytime, anywhere. You can take out stacks of books and specialized peer-reviewed journals and read and take notes and take more notes until you have a) design specs and b) a materials list.
Tools may be a problem, but like always, improvise. You may have something that can cut and weld and combine and discombobulate, so look around in places that may have tools; best if you can walk or hike there, but if you’ve hoarded enough gasoline to take longer excursions, and there is something specific you need, go there and take it.
Raw materials for your rocket may be easier to procure than tools to build it because there is so much stuff around. Do you know how much you can scavenge and scrounge (of course you do because you’ve been doing it for years) by digging through piles of rubbish? Get creative. Gathering everything you need on your materials list may take time, but solid effort and grit will get you there.
Rockets are big, but you have lots of space, just make sure your work area is clean and clear.
Start building your rocket from the inside out. All the electronics, life support, inertial guidance systems, propulsion and steering, and the other myriad details that you have on your design specs need to be constructed and put together and then combined with all the different parts of the design so that the whole thing works together to launch you into orbit. This will take time, so be patient.
Fuel. This one is tricky. Older rockets used solid boosters, but that stuff isn’t around anymore. Hence, you need to find the perfect blend of liquid fuel, which will be the most dangerous part of this and require lots of testing, but you have time for experiments, so keep trying different combinations until you find one that will give you the lift you need.
Shell. You will need three layers. The outer one will burn off, the middle will deflect solar radiation and protect you from micrometeorites, and the inner skin keeps you inside. Again, work from the inside out. This means that the outer hull will most likely not be aesthetically pleasing, but anyone watching you will only see it burning away and shards of it falling back to earth.
Suit up. OK, so you took this from the Smithsonian, but it’s not like Neil Armstrong will ever use it again, so what’s the harm?
Take only what you need.
(The only view is in front; there was never anything behind you anyway).
Rina Palumbo (she/her/hers) has a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and is working on a novel and two nonfiction long-form writing projects alongside short-form fiction and creative nonfiction. Her work is forthcoming or appears in Milk Candy, Bright Flash, Survivor Lit, Stonecoast, Amethyst, and AutoFocus et al.