This summer, aspiring astronaut Lena (GR / Year 13) was lucky enough to spend six days of her holiday at the NASA Advanced Space Academy, in Huntsville, Alabama.
Space Camp has been running since 1982 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the Official Visitor Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Each year, trainees of all ages travel from across the United States and 150 countries worldwide to participate in Space Camp programmes and experience first-hand the Saturn V rocket, the Apollo 12 moon rock, the mobile quarantine facility and Pathfinder Space Shuttle. Space Camp alumni include engineers, scientists and technologists, and ten Space Camp graduates are now NASA and ESA astronauts – great news for aspiring astronaut Lena! Here she talks about the experience:
‘To my surprise, when I arrived at the Space Academy, there were hundreds of children and teenagers from the age of 8 to 18. We were all divided up into groups according to age. My group of 16 students was especially international, with people from Norway, Nigeria, Mexico, D.C., Virginia and other places in the United States. I enjoyed working with students from such a diverse background, as everyone contributed to team challenges with a different perspective.
There were activities every day from 8am to 10pm. My team and I worked together on simulated space missions, astronaut training, teambuilding activities and engineering challenges, such as building a heat shield or a small rover. Each challenge was linked to a particular aspect of space exploration, so we had a lecture prior to each challenge in which we learned about NASA-specific science, technology and history. There was even a presentation by the former NASA Astronaut Mike Foreman, which inspired me majorly!
The highlights were three space mission simulations. Everyone was assigned a specific role; mine were space shuttle pilot, capsule communicator in mission control and mission scientist on the space station. I believe the simulations have improved my communication and team working skills, while also practising problem-solving under pressure. We were confronted with different problems that we had to solve as a team. Another highlight was the SCUBA diving and launching rockets under water.
We also built our own rockets in small engineering teams, launching them and later recovering the payload. Our rocket launch was successful and it reached a distance of about 100m. Prior to this, we had to calculate the price of each part exactly and stay within a given budget, which mirrors how space agencies build rockets in real life.
Overall, the camp has definitely inspired me and increased my wish to become an astronaut. It was very nice to meet people with similar aspirations and interests; I definitely made some new friends!
Before I came to Christ’s Hospital, I wasn’t very interested in science, but since starting here I have had such amazing science teachers and lessons that I really got into it. I realised that being an astronaut unites everything I am interested in and passionate about; sport, science and languages. The thought of cruising around space in weightlessness really fascinates me, plus the fact it is so hard to become an astronaut makes me want to do it even more! One of the NASA crew currently on the International Space Station is an American woman who went to Space Camp when she was 16 years old, and that really inspires me; it means she has successfully pursued her dream.’
For more info on Space Camp, go to: https://spacecamp.com/space/advancedacademy