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.
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!
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.
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.