We started the day with an overview of NASA’s history - which involves an impressive 132 spacecraft launches and over 900+ astronauts in space! Humans are launched into space from 3 locations: China, Russia (now Kazakhstan) and China. Currently NASA is not sending its own manned rockets into space, and our astronauts hitch a ride from Kazakhstan every time we want to go.
That doesn’t mean that NASA isn’t super busy- they are actually working on more projects than ever before. One of the most interesting projects is that they’re looking into going into deep space, capturing an asteroid, and bringing it back to orbit the moon for study.
Their ultimate goal, of course, is Mars. Their biggest concern with this is radiation and how to keep astronauts alive for both going to Mars AND coming home (Our NASA instructor remarked that NASA “has a very strict bring-people-home-alive policy”). They are currently building a rocket that will be ready for launch by 2019. They’re planning to send people into deep space- further than any other human has ever travelled! All of this is to prepare for their eventual goal of putting people on Mars.
After our morning talk, we were then were challenged to build “solar sails” that could automatically unfurl and be launched.
After lunch, we met with Ed Buckbee, who was the manager of the astronauts. It was his job to make sure the astronauts made it to where they need to be and to control publicity for NASA. He managed many of the flights between the late 1960s-1980s. He shared the program was successful because “failure was not an option:” He also spoke of the importance of working as a team. He advised, “Find out what you are good at, and make sure your part works.” Above all else, he urged us to strive for Mars and keep the dream of space alive.
After Ed’s talk, we had the chance to explore the Space and Rocket Museum. We got to go on all kinds of rides - one that simulated 0g floating, and one that simulated 3 Gs. The 3G simulator had us pushed to the back of our seats- it was hard to move even our fingers at times!
Before dinner we got our roles for our simulated mission tomorrow. Mrs. Craven is a mission specialist who gets to go on EVA (extra vehicle activity) space walk on Mars. Ms. Imhoff will be the commander of the mission. She’ll make sure that Mrs. Craven gets all of her experiments done and arrives back to Ashford safely.
We had a busy first day at Space Camp!
After a brief overview of camp, we met retired NASA engineer/ astronaut trainer Homer Hickanum. When he was in high school, Homer and a group of his friends called the “Rocket Boys” worked to build one of the first American rockets from scratch. He wrote a memoir about their story, which was later made into the movie October Sky. He told us some very entertaining stories about persevering through disappointments, hard school work, and explosions! He also shared that you're never too old to learn something new- he became a published author after he retired from NASA!
After learning lots from Homer Hickanum, we headed out on a tour of the Space and Rocket Center. We saw so many cool things- check them out below:
After our tour, we ate lunch in the space camp hub. The space camp cafeteria has a “Mars to Table” program, and grows some produce in aeroponic gardens. Check them out:
After lunch, we were given experience with some of NASA's lesson plans. One showed us the scale of the Solar System - did you know that there is only one Solar System in the universe? Our sun's official name is "Sol," and so the system around it is the "Solar System." We made models that showed us just how far away the outer planets are .
After that, we were given a mission overview. After being presented with a wide variety of jobs that people have during space missions, we had to choose 3 that we could see ourselves doing. We had to think carefully about what our strengths were and how we could best contribute to our team!
Once we had gotten our mission applications in, it was time to listen to a NASA Astronaut Speaker. Col. Jerry Ross, who has been to space 7 different times, spoke about the importance of finding your dream and persevering to achieve it. He advised, “Get away from it’s difficult, it’s too hard, and really think what is it that I want to do? You need to be excited about what you want to do, you need to set goals, and you need to persevere. Don’t give up on your dreams easily.” Col. Ross didn’t get accepted into the Astronaut candidate program on the first round, but he kept trying, and eventually went on to set many records on the International Space Station!
Finally, we got to meet with a group of people who currently work with NASA on ISS and Deep Space projects We spoke with them about our cubesat experiment, and they shared that finding new ways to keep astronauts safe from radiation was one of their biggest priorities. Did you know that the average astronaut is exposed to a year’s worth of radiation in just a single day on the ISS? Astronauts report seeing white lights when the close their eyes- and that’s all radiation! This poses concerns for extended space travel. After being reminded of how important it is to protect astronauts from radiation, we became even more excited to get our cubesat back and see what results we got from radiation!
Whew- what a day of adventure! Stay tuned to see what tomorrow will bring!
Early this morning, we travelled to Huntsville, Alabama for an exciting adventure at Space Camp. We’re all checked in and ready for a fun filled week of rocket building, multi axis trainers, 1/6th moon walking, and water landings!!! Stay tuned for more updates throughout the week as we share our adventures with you.
Ms. Imhoff and Mrs. Craven