Space camp was amazing!! I'm around rocket and space stuff quite a bit, but it was extra special for me to get to be hands on and learning along side my family. Very fun. (See Sean's blog for more pics and description.)
Friday we got some personal tours of the museums and a bus tour that took us into some secured areas of the Space Center.
We had a buffet dinner, a presentation about life on the Space Station and then built our own rockets. I've always wanted to do this.
Saturday morning we launched to rockets. Ours got a little caught up in its own parachute string so it came down with a crash. It's all good, though.
Next came lunch with an astronaut. Charlie Walker was the first civilian astronaut, an Indiana native and Purdue graduate. He took some extra time speaking words of encouragement to my girls. "Set your goals now, work hard, apply yourselves and you can achieve anything. You will do anything" It was a precious moment.
Then came the highlight of the training. The Space Shuttle mission. We were on the Discovery team. Sean served as the Public Relations Officer, the voice of NASA. He was located in Mission Control. Lydia and I were mission specialists 3 and 4 located on the lower deck of the Space Shuttle. We did some chemistry experiments while in orbit and were responsible for changing out various canisters of gas. And Hannah had the all-important job of Commander of Discovery. She did a great job getting us off of the ground and landing us safely again.
Our team of twelve read from a script which instructed us on what to say and what operations to perform. In front of us were screens that showed what was going on inside and outside our orbiter. It was pretty impressive and exciting to complete it as a team. I was really impressed with the kids in particular who rose to the challenge and got the job done.
The rest of the afternoon included practicing on some computer simulators landing the shuttle and working with the robotic arm. This was definitely a two person job and required lots of cooperation and concentration. After about four attempts Hannah and I landed safely.
In the 1/6th chair astronauts practice how to move with only with 1/6th of earth's gravity to hold them down. It's a lot harder than it looks.
Then there was this rough and tumble sphere. It was used by the Mercury and Gemini astronauts in training. It is supposed to simulate a space craft out of control and train the astronauts to remain oriented enough to get it back on track. Hannah did not like it so much. She was nauseous much of the day.
Finally, came the graduation. This experience really is one of the highlights of our time here. It is clear that NASA is thinking ahead about who the astronauts and engineers of the future will be. Throughout our visit we heard several mentions that the men and women who live on the moon or explore Mars are now between 5 and 15. Could it be one of my kids?