Parent/Child Space Camp:
The Apollo Team
L-R, top row: Jill Wiegand, Abby Brown, Jennifer Hicks, Zack Siegel,
John Alvendia, Nicholas Phillips
(Click on photo to see a larger version)
When I went to Space Camp in Huntsville, AL on August 3rd-5th, I had a great time! First we went and dropped off our luggage in the Habitat (where you mainly sleep). Then we went to lunch, came back, got our luggage, and went up to our room. We unpacked and went to an orientation in another building across from us. After we got assigned teams, (we were Apollo) the fun began. In all of the days we were there, here are most of the activities: We did a top secret mission, I'm not telling what it is just in case. :) We did missions, not like the secret missions, but ones where you would fly a pretend rocket ship. But it seemed real, there was a mission control part and a part where you were on the ship. We got to look around the musuem, we got to go on simulaters like the one sixth gravity chair, we got to have meals in between activities, like breakfast, lunch and dinner. Me and Tom went on a ride called Space Shooter. We also went on a ride called G-Force.The parents made mission patches, while we were doing our top secret mission (the kids). We also did a museum hunt where you look around the museum and answer questions like: Who was the first man in space? At the end of Sunday, we had Space Bowl. It was a game where kids go up and try to answer questions and then sit down then the adults. You have to have the answer to the question and a fast finger to press your buzzer to do well. The person who gets the question right gets a bonus question. Then they passed out awards. Our team got Best C-4 Project award, and then after a couple of awards they gave out "Right Stuff" award to four couples. ME AND TOM WERE ONE OF THEM!!!!! We got a medal each and that was really cool! I had a really good time at Space Camp but I had to go. I had a really fun time!
Space Camp - Day One
We checked in then went to the cafeteria for a quick lunch. Then it was back to the habitat to get our logbooks, sheets and towels and to get settled into our room. Since we are a mixed pair, we get our own room on the third floor: 3-10. All of the rooms have company names over the doors: Rockwell, Thiokol, Grumman and Coca-Cola. Much to our dismay, our room is Grumman, not Coke. Jill says that Momma would have really wanted to stay in one of the Coca-cola rooms. The rooms have 7 bunk beds and lockers and one desk. Bathrooms (Waste management) are at either end of the hall with 4 sinks, 3 toilets and 5 shower stalls.
After orientation and a lesson about the Space Shuttle, the schedule has our team, Apollo, going to the museum simulators for 1 hour. This is our chance to ride the Space Shot, an elevator-on-steroids ride that simulates the launch of the Saturn V rocket. Just as we get strapped in, it starts to rain and they close the ride. Major disappointment for both of us. We head inside to the Mars Mission Simulator which is one of those go-motion-rides-in-a-star-trek-shuttle-craft things. Jill feels much better after that. Then it's off to the 1/6th Gravity Simulator where we get to experience walking on the moon. Dinner is next. Then training for our first Space Shuttle mission. We are in mission control for this one. Jill is the Instrumentation and Communications Systems Engineer, or INCO, and I am the Propulsion Systems Engineer, or Prop. We have a bunch of speaking parts. It's like a play with life-like NASA props and computers. It's really cool. Tomorrow is the actual mission. It should be really cool. The day ends with an IMAX movie: the Magic of Flight. Very cool. The first day has been really fun. Tomorrow we'll wear our matching spacesuits.
Space Camp - Day Two
We were awakened by team leaders at 7:00 AM, showered, dressed in our NASA blue flight suits and went down to the first floor of the habitat to meet the rest of the team. Denah, our team leader, then took all of the junior astronauts-in-training off to work on a secret project and left the senior astronauts-in-training to come up with a mission patch that represented our team. From there we went to breakfast and talked about what we would be doing the rest of the day. After breakfast, we went to build rockets. Each pair of team members were given the parts of an Estes rocket kit and led through the assembly process. The kit came with Space Camp decals to decorate the rocket. Once they were built, we put them in a box. We would be launching them later in the day.
After the rockets were built, it was time for our first Shuttle mission. We couldn't wait to get to mission control and get set up for the mission. Once everything was started, with the computer screens showing information specific to our roles, it was just like being at a real launch! Jill got to read the weather forecast for the launch and landing, started the countdown at T-4:00 and did a great job! The action inside the orbiter was displayed on three big screens in mission control, so we could watch what was going on. It was incredibly interactive and life-like! The flight director had to talk the commander and pilot through several emergency procedures, the mission specialists had to assemble parts of the space station and the payload specialists had to do several experiments and record the results. How cool is that!
We then trekked off to Area 51, the launch pad for the rockets that we built earlier. Everyone enjoyed counting down for each launch and oohed-and-aahed when they went whistling down range. After a frantic search for the rocket bodies, it was time for lunch. After lunch was the 5DF and MMU simulators. 5DF stands for 5 degrees of freedom and is used to demonstrate Newton's third law: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The 5DF floats on compressed air above a smooth concrete floor. While you are strapped in, you are moved through the five degrees of freedom: right/left, back/front, roll, pitch and yaw. You are then given a small task to perform like pushing a few buttons, twisting a wrench or simply trying to get from one place to another. It's easy to see how hard it must be in zero-g to try to move things around. The MMU (Manned Manuevering Unit) is the same thing except that you control the five axes of movement by using two hand controllers. The MMU has been replaced by the more compact SAFER backpack, but the same concepts still apply. Everyone had fun trying to park the MMU after their turn was up. It was much harder than it looks!
Next up was training for our next mission. Anyone who was in mission control for the last mission was in the orbiter this time. Jill and I get to be mission specialists and have to perform a spacewalk to launch two telescopes. We don't have much to do during the launch and landing, but we get to be in 5DF chairs and float around in the payload bay during the longest part of the mission! We practice everything from pre-launch to two minutes after liftoff to make sure that everyone knows their parts, then it's off to a lesson on living and working in space. We learned all about the different kinds of food in space, how astronauts go to the bathroom in space, where they sleep, how they bathe and all kinds of other things.
Back to simulators. This time it's the multi-axis trainer. Dubbed the whirl-and-hurl, this chair is designed to simulate a tumbling spin that could happen if an orbiter were to reenter the Earth's atmosphere at the wrong attitude. There's not much to do but hold on tight and scream. All of the kids wanted to go several times!
Dinner is next, followed by the junior astronauts going off to work on their secret mission and the parents working on their mission patch some more. After that, it's the second shuttle mission. Jill and I take our places on the orbiter Intrepid's flight deck, and wait for our chance to launch our telescopes. When the time comes for our EVA, Jill gets suited up in a mock spacesuit that added tons of realism. Gloves on, headsets on, strapped into our 5DF chairs and we're off! Jill had a simulated malfunction and had to fix it before her telescope could be deployed. We floated back to the orbiter, climbed aboard and reported to the mission scientist in mission control about our spacewalk!
After that it was time to unwind with another IMAX movie. This time we got to see Destiny in Space. It was particularly fun to see real astronauts working on the Hubble Telescope after we had just finished trying to do something like that. They make it look so easy.
Space Camp - Day Three
Our last day. The flight suits were so much fun yesterday that we wore them again today. It's going to take a while to get adjusted to a normal number of pockets after wearing these. After breakfast was the museum hunt. This is a knowledge scavenger hunt designed to see how much we've learned during the last two days and to prepare us for the team competition later today: Spacebowl. We had to answer twenty questions either from memory or by looking for the answers somewhere in the museum.
Once everyone has all of the questions answered, it's time to find out about the kids' secret project. I can't talk about it here, because it's a secret.
After that, it was time for Spacebowl, a knowledge game where all eight of the teams compete against each other to see how much we all learned. Everyone has fun trying to remember all of the correct answers to all of the questions, knowing that we've heard or seen the answer somewhere. Only two members of our team are fast enough to the buzzer, and we only get one question right. Good job, John and Paul!
It's finally graduation time, and we are presented with our Space Camp wings and graduation certificates. They also give out achievement awards to four of the parent-child pairs for demonstrating that they have the Right Stuff to be astronauts. Jill and I are amazed to find out that we are among the winners. That is just perfect thing to top off an amazing weekend that I we won't soon forget.
Outer edge reads:
(Click on patch to see a larger version)
(Click on photos to see a larger version)
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy