To keep the astronauts safe in Space, and entire team works around the clock on the ground at Mission Control. We got the chance to simulate what it's like to be in Mission Control with some actual Mission Control Scientists. They talked a little bit about the skills you need to work at Mission Control:
While visiting Mission Control, we got a tour of "Historic Mission Control," which is where scientists worked around the clock during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. These are the missions that took us to the Moon!
After our tour of Historic Mission Control, we visited Orion Mission Control. This is where NASA will control future missions. Right now, Mission Control Specialists and Astronauts are training for potential missions to the moon and beyond. This preparation will be crucial as NASA continues with its future missions.
There are a wide variety of roles that Mission Control specialists take on. There's the Flight Director, who has operational responsibility over all missions an payload operations. CAPCOM, or capsule communicator, communicates directly with the crew. They are typically the only point of communication between the crew and Mission Control. SURGEON is responsible for monitoring the health of the astronauts aboard the capsule or station. EECOM (electric, environmental, and consumables manager) monitors environmental conditions and solves equipment errors.
After Mission Control, we headed over to Ellington Airforce Base to chat with Air Force and Civil Air Patrol members about remotely piloted aircraft:
It's been a wonderful few days NASA Johnson, and we're excited to bring back some amazing project for our upcoming Ashford in Space Unit.
We got a special treat today- a tour of NASA's Robotics Facility! NASA Robotics Computer Programmer Jodi Graf showed us around the area where NASA designs experimental robots, with an emphasis on Humanoid Robots. Jodi Graf explains what she does:
We also got a chance to see rovers, which are the vehicles that travel on the ground of moons and planets. We climbed inside to take a look:
Ms. Imhoff also took a look at the Planetary Analgue Site, also known as the "Rock Yard." This is a large area where NASA tests Lunar Rovers for upcoming missions.
Did you know that the International Space Station (ISS) is actually the size of a football field? It was huge!
Tomorrow, we'll get an inside look at Mission Control.
This past week, we attended a conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. We got an inside look at how NASA sends people to space, heard from Astronauts and other amazing aerospace professionals, and got many ideas for cool space simulations to do prior to our contact with ARISS.
Our 3 day adventure began by talking to Astronauts Joe Acaba (who was streamed in from aboard the International Space Station, in low earth orbit) and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, another teacher-turned-astronaut who facilitated the call here on Earth. Check it out:
Both Joe and Dottie stressed how important skills like communication, flexibility, adaptivity, and creativity were in space. Astronaut Joe also stressed the importance of asking questions and working hard, even when it's not easy, "Ask for help. Don't give up on yourself- you can make it happen. Some things might be harder for you than other people, but there's no reason why you can't make it work." He said that he was never the top of his class, but he worked and studied hard, and that got him to where he is today (space!)
We can't wait to talk to the astronauts again with ARISS!
Then, it was our turn to train like astronauts! Ms. Manfre and Mrs. Craven did a scuba diving challenge, while Ms. Imhoff toured the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which is where the astronauts train for Spacewalks and their work on the International Space Station. It's one of the largest pools in the world! Check it out:
In the afternoon, we got a chance to hear from Dr. John B Charles, who is Director of NASA's Human Exploration Research and Planning.
Tomorrow, we will check back in with an update on NASA Robotics, see the astronaut training facility in Building 9, catch a glimpse of Houston from the sky, and learn all about the early capsules used to take humans to the Moon!
You may have seen the news that Space X recently made history by launching the first reusable rocket! Usually, rockets are only used once. However, that's really expensive, and not sustainable for multiple rocket launches in a row.
You can check out the Space X Launch below:
With the exciting news, we thought it would be fun for students to put their Engineering Design skills to the test and create some reusable rockets of their own! The kit we elected to use was the Alpha III rocket kit, which was provided to us by the local Civil Air Patrol Branch. Thanks, CAP!
The link to the guide Ms. Imhoff and Mrs. Craven created is here: docs.google.com/a/ashfordct.org/presentation/d/1M-qivilCSg6KQgHXJfJnI-hDMbXOLOKucKPbydXXJNk/edit?usp=sharing
Our students worked diligently to assembly their reusable rocket designs. Mrs. Craven and Ms. Imhoff, dressed appropriately in their flight suits, assisting students as needed:
Once they were assembled, student rockets were set aside for their Aerospace Night Display and also for their launch later next month. Stay tuned to see how they fly!
On our last morning at Space Camp, we got to raid the Education Resource Center for all kinds of freebies, including some amazing Mars posters. They gave us so many fun things to take home that we actually had trouble fitting them all in our suitcases!
After getting our goodies, we headed over to the IMAX theater to watch an amazing movie called Dream Big, which was an inspirational story about how young engineers change the world.
We then were presented with our final engineering challenge- we had to build a lander and a rover to deliver a payload (in this case, an egg) to the Martian surface. Our payload survived impact and travelled over 91 inches on the Martian surface.
The 1/6 chair was one of the highlights of the day! We climbed onto a chair that simulates 1/6th the gravity of Earth- just like you'd feel if you were on the Moon. Check it out in the videos below:
Having completed our Moonwalk, we got to spend some time in the shuttle Endeavor- Ms. Imhoff and Mrs. Craven worked hard to land the shuttle and get everyone home safely.
Now that we were safely back on Earth, it was time to graduate from Space Camp! Our group, Team Columbus, took home the "Best Mission" award for our service on the ISS and on Mars. Mrs. Craven also took home the "Right Stuff" award for exemplifying the spirit of an explorer.
Now that we're officially Space Camp Alumni, it's time to take our new learning back to Ashford! We can't wait to do fun Aerospace education projects during the new school year. Thanks for joining us on our wild week in Space, and stay tuned for more summer adventures soon.
Day 4 was a blast...literally! We started the day by launching the rockets that we made in yesterday’s workshop.
Having launched our rockets, we went to compare them to the real Saturn Rocket hanging in the Davidson Center. While there, we also climbed in a model Apollo capsule that they used for the Moon missions, and saw the actual Apollo 16 landing capsule. There was a lot of history at the Davidson Center!
After rockets, we completed our next mission. Our goal was to launch the Space Shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS), build an additional structure out in Space, perform a crew exchange, and land the Space Shuttle back to Earth. Ms. Imhoff’s job was to perform an EVA where she hung from the ISS in order to build a structure. Mrs. Craven monitored the conditions onboard the ISS and the Space Shuttle to make sure that everything was functioning “nominally” so that the scientists onboard could perform all kinds of different experiments.
After our mission, we took the MAT (Multi Axis Trainer). This simulates what it would be like to take a tumble through space. Check it out below:
After a couple days at The US Space and Rocket Center, we are ready to get our hands dirty with Martian soil. Today we got to do lots of hand-on astronaut training.
First, we built model rockets. We don't get to launch them until tomorrow morning. Check back soon to see if Mrs. Craven's rocket or Ms. Imhoff's rocket goes the highest.
We also got to climb a rock wall replica of the Martian landscape. This week we have heard a lot about the "Mars Generation." Kids our students' age will most likely be the first people to live on Mars in just a few decades. Its really exciting to think that the students at Ashford School might have the opportunity to work on Mars.
Our simulated mission to Mars that we had prepared for yesterday was successful. At one point Mrs. Craven went on an EVA (extra vehicular activity). She needed to assemble solar panels on the red planet. Sometimes NASA uses nuclear power to power small machines like the original rovers that went to Mars. However, most of the power people use to survive on Mars will come from solar energy. Everyone was relieved when Mrs. Craven was able to successfully install the panels. Ms. Imhoff, the commander of the mission, thanked the team for all their hard work.
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