America here I come

Hi everyone, this is Dean.

I was awarded a full Space Camp scholarship by the Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville Alabama.
On the 14th of June I will be flying to America.
It will take 4.5 hours flight to get to Brisbane and then over 13 hours flight to Los Angeles (longer on the way back).
I will be visiting many places to do with space and aviation (because I love it!) and many places that have alot of history.
The best part will be a week at NASA’s Space Camp in Alabama! I will go through astronaut training for kids.
Thank you to my AMAZING school for all the support and help, I have the best school ever.
Also thank you Gosnells shire for the support.
I will be updating my blog every few days so stay tuned.
You can leave comments but remember that they are moderated.

The flight

My trip to America took around 24 hours. I flew from Perth to Brisbane and then Brisbane to Los Angeles in the USA. We flew with Virgin AU.

Virgin Australia were amazing! I asked Virgin to see the cockpit, but I never imagined that they would offer for me to be part of all the pre-flight checks.
We were asked to come to the gate 2 hours before boarding time.

At the gate, I met Captain Rob and he introduced me to the 3 other pilots (Jonathon, Peter and Shane).
We boarded the Boeing 777-300ER a couple of hours before everyone else and started with a very detailed tour. I had a look upstairs in the pilots private rest area where there were 2 beds.

They then started the flight planning stage. They went through the weather maps, communictions and the maximum zero fuel weight, they explained everything to me.
Then we moved to the cockpit where we went through the auto pilot check list and the pre flight checks. It was SO interesting to talk to the pilots. They were so full of information and happy to share it. They explained everything they did and Jonathon the pilot showed me the instruments, and how to feed the numbers into them. It was incredible!!
We went through the way-points and the emergency landing runways. At the end of the flight checks, Captain Rob gave me real Virgin Australia pilot wings and 4 stripes captain rank!
I was so amazed by how nice and welcoming the pilots were. Especially how Captain Rob allowed me to be part of the team and even letting me sit in his place.

It was a really long flight and the landing was so smooth, I could hardly feel the wheels touching the ground. The pilots did a great job.

Got to LA so tired but can’t believe how lucky I am.


Big Bear adventures

We went to Big Bear Mountains in California to see the famous Big Bear solar observatory.
It is located in Big Bear lake in the San Bernardino mountains.

Big Bear lake used to be the biggest man made lake in the world until not long ago. It is really high at more than 2Km above sea level!
It is called Big Bear because many years ago an Indian hunting party led by someone called Benjamin Wilson hunted so many Grizzly bears there, that he decided to call it the Big Bear Valley.
The Grizzly bears were hunted out over the years but black bears were introduced later on and now there are many black bears living there. They are not as dangerous as the Grizzlies.

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Big Bear Valley, you can walk on it from Mexico to Canada a bit like the Bibbulmun track back home.
The whole area was a huge gold mining community in the previous century as gold from the mountain washed into the valley with rain. Even today there are people who are gold mining there. I wish I brought my metal detector!

The solar observatory is not open to the public since it is a research facility, we went down there to take some photos when I saw the director of the observatory near the gate (Mr Wenda Cao).
It was such a coincidence and we started to talk to him about what I was doing there.
He let us In and inside we met professor John Varsik, John took me on a private tour of the whole facility.

There are two telescopes on site, one is part of the GONG network (Global Oscillation Network Group).
The GONG network consists of 6 identical telescopes placed around the world so once the sun goes down at one site another telescope can take over.
The other telescope is called The New Solar Telescope Of Big Bear, it is one of the biggest solar telescopes in the world and is equipped with amazing optics to measure solar flares, sun spots, magnetic fields and takes patterns of the Suns behaviour, apparently lately it’s been quiet.
The telescope is owned by The New Jersey Institute of Technology and also supplies NASA with footage that they capture.

John took me upstairs to see the big telescope, the telescope is worth over $10 million dollars.
It is a big telescope which sits in a huge dome, the doors on the dome are controlled by computers, that open it when observation begins.
The telescope looks at the sun to gain its images.
Then I went down to the office and John showed me a few images of the sun that they have collected.
He then decided to take me to a place where not many people have access to it was the optical Laboratory.
There he showed me the optical mirrors and instruments.
It was such an incredible experience seeing how scientists work in the observatory, as well as all the advanced technology.

At Big Bear discovery center I met Jim, he used to be the head of the search and rescue team in the Big Bear area.

He is a retired pilot who actually crashed his plane and survived! He is now working with the Red Cross.
Jim took us around to see the area, he was great, he gave us so much interesting information and stories.

Just when we were about to leave Big Bear, two girls from the discovery and conservation centre invited me to a local camp fire and sing-a-long dedicated to the protection of the surrounding nature.
The singer Laura Tovar, who was happy to see Aussies, taught us the words for the songs and gave me her CD.
** Edited to add that Laura Tovar also ended up sending me a song she wrote, sang and recoded for my charity GOSAC (Give Our Strays A Chance).  Click the link to check it out! How amazing is this??? 
THEN I tried something for the first time..


It is a graham cracker with a piece of chocolate, we roasted marshmallows in the camp fire, placed it on top of the chocolate to melt it and then another graham cracker sandwiched together.
Perfect campfire activity! It was really yummy!

Spaceships, Planets and the Hollywood stars in between!

California Science Centre is home to the Endeavour (The real space shuttle), a huge part of the museum is dedicated to the Endeavour.
There are many activities to take part in and heaps of information on the flights and the astronauts who flew on each mission.
I got to see the actual shuttle, it is so much bigger than I thought it would be, even the ceramic tiles – so cool. They are all numbered because each tile is different and unique.
Outside of the museum is a huge fuel tank for the space shuttle, it is used to store and supply fuel to the engines during take off.
There are real aircraft on display above our heads.. wow!

On the way from the Science Centre to the Griffith observatory is Hollywood Boulevard.
It is a street with stars on the footpath of famous actors, singers, TV and movie star names.
Surprisingly I found my name on one of the stars!!! Well kinda….
The street is a bit wild with people trying to sell you things everywhere.
There are movie characters everywhere, they really look exactly like in the movies.
Dancers dancing in the streets (really good dancers).
I even saw people preparing to make a movie.

The Griffith observatory is in the Hollywood hills.
Upon arriving at the observatory, we had to walk up a winding road and saw a deer just standing there looking at us.
The observatory is like a big museum filled with real meteors, planet models and the biggest star display in the world.
There are different interactive activities that involve space.
They had a timeline of how the universe was created and formed and when, I also went to the planetarium. You lay back on special seats and explore the universe. A bit like Scitech in Perth.
Because Griffith observatory is on top of a hill (mountain!) there is an awesome view of Los Angeles and even the Hollywood sign.
It was amazing!


The Grand Adventure!

The Grand Canyon is about 2.5 hours drive from Las Vegas in the state of Arizona. The Colorado river carved it 5 million years ago mainly because of erosion by water and wind. The soil in the area is baked by the strong sun, it is so hard that when it rains, water runs off of it and is not absorbed. That’s how big torrents happen and they carve the sides of the canyon.
The plants there have shallow roots to maximize water absorption but that means they do not stop the erosion.

I went past a few Joshua trees.
Joshua trees are endangered because they need special conditions to live.
They can only live in a certain elevation, they only grow 1.9cm each year and they depend on floods for the seeds to grow.
The Joshua tree got its name from the migrants who came along time ago and thought the tree looked like Joshua from the bible with his arms up to the skies.
When the tree dies the spike like bushes on the end of the branches droops down, they thought it looked like Joshua’s beard.
There are many species of animals and plants here, including 355 bird species and 89 species of mammals.

At the Grand Canyon I started at the Skywalk, the Skywalk is 5 layers of glass placed over the edge of the Grand Canyon cliff. The Skywalk is scary when you look down and it makes you feel dizzy.
The skywalk is suspended 7000 feet above sea level and is higher than the Empire State Building.
Unfortunately no cameras were allowed due to native tribe rules. When walking on the glass you have to wear special protectors on your feet that look like elf shoes.
One advice – if you ever go to the Grand Canyon – NEVER get too close to the edge or this might happen to you…

We also saw a few native Indian huts and teepees nearby.

I hiked around a few cliffs and rock formations on the edge of the canyon and took a few photos of the absolutely breath taking views and hiked back down. The photos don’t do it justice!


The tour guide took me down to an old bat guano (bat poop) mine. They collect it to make cosmetics and fertilisers. He explained that a jet pilot from the Air Force was flying in the Grand Canyon without permission, and hit a cable from the mine that ruined the zipline to the caves where they were mining. The pilot made it back to base safely.

I then traveled to Hoover dam, it was almost 50c degrees there and as soon as you step outside you start sweating. It was like being in an oven!! SO HOT!!
I saw all the systems used in the dam and how the water flows through the dam.
They actually make electricity with the water flowing through the hydropower engines at the bottom of the dam. It generated 4 billion KW hours, enough to provide electricity to 1.3 million people.
Workers took 5 years to build the dam (1931-1936) and were 2 years ahead of schedule plus 2 million dollars under budget.
Officially 109 workers died making the dam, mostly from rocks falling on their heads or falling off the dam. But apparently many more died.
Legend says that someone was buried alive in the concrete but that’s wrong because it would ruin the structural integrity and also it takes hours to pour 2 cm of concrete on the dam making it impossible to bury a body without anyone seeing it.
We had a taxi driver who told us that his granddad worked on the Hoover Dam, he said he only got paid $5 a day! It was such a hard and dangerous job.

We stayed in Las Vegas for a couple of days so we can see the Grand Canyon. Vegas is a city that was ruled by Mafia a long time ago, they have legal casinos and betting laws these days.
The hotels in Vegas are unbelievable! They have little cities inside of them with fake European streets and fake skies. Some have roller coasters inside or zipline or canals with gondolas and the people who operate the gondolas sing opera.

Houston we have NO problem!

The Houston Space Centre is filled with awesome science and space activities, it is right next to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
I tried to fit all the activities into the day, there are sooo many!

I went on the tram tour that took me to NASA’s mission control where missions from 1965 to 1992 were held.
The computers in the old mission control room are very old and during the 1960’s  there were no personal calculators or mouses/keyboards so it was incredible what they used to send man to the moon.
They had very big screens and huge computers during that time that would take 5 people to operate and hold only 2MB of memory, so you could download Twitter on that computer and the computer would be exceeding the limit.
It is mind boggling how they achieved so much back then and how much more advanced we are today.

Upon returning to the space centre I went into a replica of the Sky Lab space station which was built from leftover hardware from the Apollo missions, it was redesigned to be used as space station.
I also saw Gene Cernan’s capsule used for his flight to the moon (he was the last man to be on the moon). I saw his presentation when he came to Perth a few months ago!

I met a physicist that worked for NASA, he had actually met first hand some of the astronauts and other scientists such as Wernher von Braun. He has retired and is now volunteering at the Space Centre. It was SO interesting talking to him, he was so full of information and took me around to show me things and told me some personal stories about the astronauts. Super interesting!!!

I moved onto the space sample vault.
The vault was full of rocks gathered on the moon and moon dust.
They also had many meteorites, including one that was available for everyone to touch.

I went to one of the movies that were on display, this movie showed the timeline of all the missions and people who flew to space.

I also saw the Orion mission building from the outside. It is where the next mission to Mars is being planned. Orion is the spacecraft which is being designed to take astronauts to Mars.

There was a huge display from Mythbusters. Showing the science and space experiments. It was really cool – it was hands on activities, which made it easier to understand.

Later on in the evening I went to see bats emerging from under a bridge near the heart of Houston.

I read that thousands come out at around sunset and it is a beautiful sight so I went to see them.
We waited a couple of hours in the burning heat and a couple walking past asked if we were here to see the bats. We started talking, it was so much fun to meet really nice people. Taylor is a teacher and she told me abit about their life.
I am really enjoying meeting people along the way.
When time came, a steady stream of thousands of bats flew from under the bridge.
It was unbelievable. SO many of them. A few hawks were swooping in and catching them. Many times they were successful, but there were thousands if not millions of bats. They formed a cloud in the sky.
I am attaching photos that I got from the internet of the bats because we took 100’s of photos but there was not enough light and they did not come out very good. Also photos of Taylor and Peter (the really nice people I met)!


To infinity and beyond (voodoo, swamps and slaves)

Right outside of New Orleans there is a NASA testing facility for rocket engines and other thrust components. It is called Infinity at Stennis Space Centre.
They test all the NASA rockets including the Saturn V and the space shuttle engines.
They have a real Saturn V on display, a real rocket engine where you can see how it works, a simulator and so much more.
There were school kids there, we made paper airplanes together and tried to fly them through hoops to land on a runway. It was so much fun trying different aerodynamic models and try to beat each other.
A bus took me to see the testing grounds. It is unbelievable. They have a whole buffer zone around it so the really loud sound of the rocket engines (especially the Saturn V which is very very loud) doesn’t affect the population living in the area. However the guide said that you can still feel the trembles for over 10 miles away (he lives there and can feel the tests).
They are now modifying space shuttle engines, working on the Orion mission – getting people to Mars.

In Louisiana and Mississippi there are huge long bridges, they travel across the Mississippi River.
These bridges are so high to allow room for boats to travel under.
The Mississippi River is next to New Orleans and the delta is full of life – animals and plants. The soil is very fertile there.

I went to see the Honey island swamp.
There was a tour guide who took me and other families around the swamp showing us and teaching us about the wildlife and plants. It was an eco tour.
There were alligators surrounding the boat and the tour guide made the alligators jump out the water.
The tour guide stopped our boat near the shore and a wild boar came to our boat. She had babies.
Along the swamp there were houses that the only access to them is with a boat – I can’t imagine living without being able to walk anywhere.
The swamp floods often so all the houses are on very high stilts to be raised higher than flood level.

New Orleans is a very old city and has a lot of history, culture and old superstitious myths such as voodoo, hoodoo, vampires and more.
I was staying in the French quarter, the French quarter is the oldest part of New Orleans.
The Main Street is Bourbon st. It is absolutely hectic, so many people, everyone partying and having a good time. So noisy and crazy but it is full of life and spirit.
New Orleans is famous for its Jazz music. We went to a Jazz performance. It was really good.
Later at night I went down into Bourbon Street where I had a voodoo tour.
A voodoo priestess took us around the city showing us all the haunted and scary parts of the city.
She told me about all the major stories that make New Orleans spooky. It was very interesting to hear the history of New Orleans and how it ties up with old superstitions. Did you know that New Orleans old houses have metal balconies to protect them from vampires? In the old days, they used to believe vampires will stop at iron. It really effected the architecture.
Another example: an awful brain disease called Encephalitis caused by insect bites would make people’s brain swell. As the brain swelled, the people would have headaches, walk funny, spew, be bloated and feel very stiff. So they walked in a funny way and made no sense until they died.
That is how zombies originally came up. People realized it had something to do with brains and that became a myth that zombies eat brains. The disease was real and back then without good hygiene, people kept getting bitten.
Anyway, I learned a lot about voodoo and gained a few new skills BAHAHAHA

I went down to Laura plantation right on the Mississippi river.
A plantation is a site where sugar cane or other plants were grown and slaves were used to work there in the 1800’s.
The slaves had to work so hard, in the sun (it gets SO hot here) and were working in very hazardous conditions. They didn’t have many rights.
The plantation has a long history of Creole (French, Spanish and some African origin) families and traditions.
If people living in the area were Creole they would paint their houses in bright colours. If people were local Americans they would have white houses.
I took a tour with a man whose mother and his grandmother were slaves, he was awesome and did a good job explaining the history and the civil war (union vs confederate).
The house is designed and built by slaves, the Masters’ house is posh and lovely while the slaves hut is all rusty and open.
After the civil war, the slaves were freed from their masters but they only knew how to do one thing…. Work on a plantation.
So the owners of the plantations would say you can stay and work at the plantation and we will pay you (around $5 a day). It was still the same conditions, which I think is very unfair. Some of them received little plots of land and stayed in the area.
I bought a book which was written by a woman who lived on the plantation all her life, it is interesting to see her perspective.


Fighter planes and Cannons

I went to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.
The museum is filled with real naval fighter planes, they had every kind of plane that had served as well as its story.
I took a tour with a former navy pilot who flew jets and landed them on aircraft carriers, he showed us all the important jets and planes in US history.
Many of the jets on display were recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan, it is where they trained pilots to land on carriers during WWII. Because they didn’t have enough carriers, they converted normal boats. There were so many accidents there, over 100 jet planes ended up in the water.
Once returning back I climbed into the cockpit of a few fighter jets and checked out their instrument panels, I also saw a jet engine and was excited as I knew all the parts!
While looking at the jet engine I had a question so I saw a man in a flight suit walk past.
I decided to ask him, he was very nice and told me he didn’t work in the museum but would be able to help, I took him to the engine and he explained all about it thoroughly.
He then told me that he was a pilot of one of the fighter jets that was on display, he flew this plane in 1969 and also served in the Vietnam war.
His name is CMD Ed Guilbert and the plane he flew is being displayed with his name on it.  

I went to see Fort Barrancas, it is a big fort designed to keep out intruders from coming into the port. It was built in 1698 by the Spanish. It played a big part in the American civil war, it was abandoned by the Union (North) forces and was taken over by the Confederate (South). It was later abandoned by the Confederate forces and the Union took over New Orleans.
It is made inside a hill so it protects the fort from being spotted, the soldiers had rifles and cannons which they could use to sink the enemy ships.
They had places in the fort to shoot out from and underground cellars to store cannonballs.
I went down into the tunnels and it was amazing how they designed the fort.

Heading to Space Camp tomorrow. See you all in a week!!


Just a week ago I entered Space Camp, an opportunity of a lifetime.
I was very excited to go to Space Camp and take part in the activities.

I arrived on campus and the big facilities overwhelmed me, I walked into the check-in room and a friendly Space Camp Guide showed me where to go.
I was first directed to a room to get my wristband, this wristband is very important; you can’t eat, drink, sleep or be involved in any activities without it.
You also get a team name (For example my team name was Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter) and a room name (mine was USS Lincoln).
I got to my room, set up and made my bed ready.
My room had about 26 kids all on bunk beds. We had one window to light up the room.
I walked outside afterwards and met my crew trainers – Bentley (call sign: Meow) Ricky (Call sign: Candy Cane)
Ricky gave us a tour of all the facilities at space camp.
I saw all the rockets including the Saturn 1B, Saturn V, Mercury Redstone, Juno II and many more. He showed us all the simulators (Orion and 2 space shuttle simulators) that we would later complete.
I met my team properly after the introductions of the crew trainers, I first met my friend Josh, he was very friendly and it was fun to know someone on the first day.
I then met David and the rest came after that.

Later in the afternoon, we headed up to the big IMAX cinema.
The IMAX screen is a big dome and everyone would sit down, look up and enjoy the movie.
It gives you a 360 degree view of the movie. We even got popcorn!
We were very excited after the movie and also very hungry. So we went for our dinner, dinner was a huge buffet.
Each day there was a different themed buffet, for example one day it was Norway food, the next was German, American etc.
The food was amazing!

After dinner the group was taken to a large room where we were given survey sheets to choose our positions in the missions.
There were three missions as part of space camp: Orion (Future Mars mission) and two Space shuttle missions.

The positions are:

CAPCOM – Person who communicates to the orbiter (shuttle/capsule)

PAYCOM – Person who communicates to the ISS

OLE1 – Officer handling various daily jobs during flight (such as research)

OLE2 – Handle various jobs during flight

Engineers – Such as flight engineers

EECOM – Person who is in charge of the electrical systems

EVA DIRECTOR – Person who guides the astronauts while they are on space walks (Extra Vehicular Activity)

GNC – Person in charge of the navigation

BASE COMMANDER – Person in charge of the ground control


SHUTTLE CMD – Module Commander

FLIGHT DIRECTOR – Person who is responsible for the whole mission and payload

ISS COMMANDER – In charge of the ISS

For the Orion mission, I was chosen to be the Flight Director, so I had to oversee the whole mission and communicate with mission control. There was the capsule, so the crew would board before the mission and then at take off would experience the noise and rumbling.
Their job was to make sure they get to the moon safely.
Then there was the EVA team that would get suited up for fixing outside components and putting materials together outside the spacecraft.
Sometimes even get strapped up, similar to rock climbing.

Everyone at space camp asked about kangaroos, koalas and drop bears (not real) and playing around with me about my accent.

At the end of the day we were all dropped off at our dorms at 9:30 pm and because of delays got there at 9:58 pm and had two minutes to get ready for bed.
I had a minute shower and jumped into my bunk in time for the grumpy guide to come in and tell us to go to sleep.

I woke up in the morning, got ready and lined up outside waiting for my crew trainer to take us on a bus to the museum of space and science.
Upon arriving, we headed to the mission room to have a briefing and go over what we were going to do for our second mission.

On the second mission there is mission control that is supposed to be in Cape Canaveral. There was an ISS, which is ready for crew exchange when the shuttle docks with the ISS. The ISS holds experiments.
I was chosen for the job of ISS (International Space Station) Commander, I had to respond to Mission Control, preform experiments and solve problems.
As an ISS Commander, I had to practice solving an anomaly (problem).
PAYCOM at mission control would tell me what to do to fix it.

In the afternoon, the crew trainer took us to an awesome ride called G-Force.
G-Force is a bowl that spins so fast that who ever decides to ride it can feel 4G.
You walk inside and they strap you to movable boards against the sides of the machine. Once you reach the top speed your board goes up and hits the roof.
It feels like all the blood in your body runs to your extremities, also your face feels pushed back. It is impossible to lift up any part of your body.

We got a tour of all the rockets that space camp owns this includes: Saturn V, Saturn 1B, Mercury Redstone, USARMY Redstone, V1 and more.
It was amazing looking at the rockets that changed space travel forever.

After learning about the rocket we put our knowledge to use and had to build our own rockets. We were given different materials and we designed the ultimate rocket that can land safely with a parachute. My team decided to name the rocket the K-5 (Kangaroo-5).
We headed down to Area 51, this is a leadership and teamwork area.
The team was stuck on an island and we had to place wooden planks to get across, the second island can only have two people on it at the same time.
My team completed the challenge.

To end the day we got to experience the 1/6th chair, it is a chair that simulates you jumping/jogging on the moon. It is called 1/6th chair because on the moon there is only 1/6 of the earth’s gravity.
The crew trainer asks you to go up and down the moons surface, so you try really hard to jump and get a good grip on the surface.
When you jump up it feels very strange and it takes a while to fall down.
My crew trainer told me to try side step or jog.
It took a lot of effort to get a grip but I eventually got the hang of it. I really liked it!

Today was 4th of July – America’s independence day. We finished relatively early and went outside to watch the Fireworks on the grass.
Space Camp launches their own fireworks and people come from all over Huntsville to watch them. We got the best spot 🙂 The fireworks were awesome, apparently they were the best ones they ever had.

We started off the next day by finishing our rockets.
This time adding fins and the parachute, as well as securing the sections. Our rockets were planned to fly the next day.

Our crew trainer took us to a presentation of Isaac Newton’s three laws.
The presenter was amazing explaining everything in detail and performing experiments that prove his laws. I got picked to help out with one of the experiments.
It was so much fun!

We walked into a long hallway and received instructions to design a mission patch. So our team worked together and developed a meaningful patch.
We drew Orion Flying to Ganymede (One of Jupiter’s moons) and 16 stars in the sky above Orion. The stars represent each person in our group.

Our next challenge was to build a lunar base on the moon.
We only had $10,000 to buy habitats or robot centres.
It had to be as sustainable as possible. We had to write in a planner how much we are going to spend and on what.

To end the day we got to go on the MAT, the Multi Axis Trainer.
You are strapped to a chair and the chair is connected to three rings. It looks like a torture device.
The crew trainer turns on an engine and you start spinning on 3 axis.
This is supposed to simulate a space tumble and it has trained many astronauts for space walks. The funny thing is that you can’t get sick because your stomach is at the centre of gravity. You also can’t get sick because the fluid in your ears keeps on moving. It was slightly scary but a lot of fun.

Day 4
Today we started the day with our 2nd mission. As the ISS commander I made sure we finished our mission successfully!

Once completing the mission we went to the nearby forest and started to launch our rockets. The K-5 launched successfully and the parachute deployed successfully. We were really excited!

Our crew trainer took us to another talk about commercial flight.
He was talking about rockets as well as planes and mentioned companies such as SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Boeing etc. I learned about them at school (in my aviation program at Melville SHS) so it was cool listening to someone mentioning them.
Then he took us to a large movie screen and we saw a previously graduated space cadet fly to the ISS Live!
It was so inspirational and motivating.

We then were taken to a 35ft deep pool, so around 52.5 meters deep.
We were spilt into groups and had to build different shapes in the water. It was so much fun especially the thrill of swimming in very deep water.
This was used to practice our teamwork in zero gravity conditions (water is the closest thing to zero gravity here on earth)

Once we went to sleep, it was all quiet until we all heard snoring sounds. No one could sleep… Suddenly one of the kids threw a dodge ball “accidentally” at the direction of the snores. The dodge ball hit the snorer and all I could hear was THONK then slam and the sound of someone falling off his bed. Everyone was in hysterics!

Day 5
The next day we went to build heat protection for a capsule coming into the earth’s atmosphere. We designed our protection layer with copper mesh at the front and layers of aluminium foil behind it. Each design was made and then tested by pointing a torch at the protection.
Ours lasted the longest- 4min and 56secs.

We repaired our rockets for another launch, making sure the parachute is intact, the nose cone and fins were not damaged. It took us a little while but we managed to fix our rocket up.

After the repair we had our 3rd and final mission.
My position this time was PAYCOM (on the first day we got to fill a preference sheet for the mission roles. The crew trainer noticed that I am into leadership so I got leadership based roles)
PAYCOM communicates to the ISS and gives the crew updates and instructions on what to do.
During the mission I told the ISS crew updates of how the shuttle is flying and how to solve an anomaly. The mission was to get a new crew to the ISS and bring the crew already on board home safely.

After our successful mission we had a talk about exo-planets, it was very interesting how there might be life on another planet.

During the afternoon we had time to roam the local space and science museum and enjoy ourselves. We were going station-to-station completing experiments. It was so much fun!

To finish the day we were taken to see Don Thomas the astronaut, he has gone to space 4 times. He was part of the space shuttle missions and was a flight engineer for those missions. He would perform experiments involving animals and different substances.
E.g. how rats and fish behave in space.
He explained that fish here on earth align themselves with the light – so where the light is they know that’s up (Top of the water), it goes together with gravity. But in space they can swim in any position because there is no gravity. So the astronauts placed four lights around the tank: up, down and on both sides of the tank. The astronauts would turn only one light on and all the fish would turn so that the light would be directly above them, just like the sun.
When the light on the side of the tank was on, all fish were lying sideways, and when the light on the bottom of the tank was on, all fish were lying upside down.
The talk was very inspiring and interesting, I really enjoyed it.

Day 6
This morning we had a debrief, going over our experience at Space Camp. We rated everything from food to guides. I thought it was such an amazing experience, I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves science and space!!

We then had our graduation, we lined up on a stage and Dr. Don Thomas went one by one shaking peoples hands. He also turned my name around (as cadets we had to wear our name badges upside down). I finally had my name the right side up!

Another man came around and gave us a graduation pack which had a Scholarship Winner medal, Space Camp wings, a mission patch, photo of my team and a pen. They announced the awards and my team ended up winning the teamwork and leadership award. We got a mission patch called the Commanders Cup.

We were very happy!!

After graduating, I had lunch with Dr. Don Thomas, he was telling us about his adventures and answering all our questions.

Space Camp is incredible, I made so many friends and learned so many things during my time here.
It made me want to be an astronaut even more.

From Space Camp to home

From Space Camp we had to drive all the way to Tampa – where our flight home leaves.
We passed a few unbelievable places on the way! 

Chattanooga is a city in Tennessee, near the Great Smoky Mountains.
It is a nice weathered area and is right next to the forest and large mountains.
I went to ruby falls which is over 1000 ft under a mountain called “The Lookout Mountain”, our tour guide showed us the maze of tunnels.
It was amazing looking at crystals as well as stalactites and stalagmites all lit up with beautiful colours.
I hiked through the cave, saw streams of water, the tour guide said it was very bad to touch the water because their calcium concentration is so high that it would eat your skin.
I passed several features of the cave including Stalactites that looked like Tobacco leaves, bacon and potato chips.
I made it to our major stop, ruby falls – a giant 150ft high underground waterfall. It is coloured in so many lights. It was Awesome!

I then went on the steepest tram in the world and took me down to the bottom of the mountain.
I had lunch and went back up to Rock City.
Rock city is a place where there is fresh lemonade, music, country walks and much more.
I went on one of the bush walks, it was surreal. I was walking through the Forest, through canyons and had a look at special stops. I got to the top of the mountain and on top you can see the borders of seven states.

After a bit of walking I reached deer park, it is a huge park filled with deer, there were deer playing and running around.
I moved onto a fairy tale walk, a woman painted clay figures in neon light, put each story in a separate room and rigged the room with UV lights.
It was SPECTACULAR! It looked unreal and all the figures were moving.
At the end of the walk there is a huge model of all the stories together it is truly amazing.

Atlanta. During my stay there were riots in the streets so there were police cars and helicopters everywhere.
I was swimming in the pool on top of the hotel, looking at all the helicopters fly over. All night you could hear sirens and chanting. It was scary but amazing to see something like that.

We didn’t have much time on the way to Tampa so the best way to see Atlanta in a short time was to do a Segway tour.
At first the Segway was very wobbly and hard to control, then once you get used to it – it is a lot of fun. We saw the major buildings and sites of Atlanta including the home of Martin Luther King – he was a leader of civil rights movement.

Tampa is a city within Florida, it has a lot of swamps and rivers.
The weather is very tropical, it is hot and humid. Every night there is a storm from after noon to early night time. It is like clockwork.
Once we came back from having dinner and we were going to the hotel from where we parked.
There was a lighting storm at the time. My mum ran first and she told me to run (since there was lightning hitting 300 times every 15 minutes) so I ran (slowly as I do when mum asks stuff) and then I heard lightning strike on the power line several meters away from me. Then I RAN!!!
It was so scary, when I was running I could hear the zapping and the explosion.

I went canoeing in the Hillsborough swamp the next day.
There were alligators everywhere and some would get so close to the canoe that you would be able to touch them.
My family and I are not the best at Canoeing. We would sway side to side down the river trying to keep ourselves steady, a few times we got stuck inside a bush and couldn’t get out. We would gravitate towards anything that protrudes and we shouldn’t be near. Problem is, you can’t get off the canoe – alligators and snakes are everywhere.
It was amazing to see the wildlife, we saw turtles sun bathing on the rocks. We saw huge birds (we called them giant chickens), jumping fish. I loved seeing the diverse wildlife in such a small area.
If you went that close to a crocodile in Australia you would be eaten.

The flight home was long!! but I made it!!