There’s nothing quite like space, and there are still plenty of kids who dream about being astronauts. That is, before they realize how much training they have to go through and how much math they have to learn. After a while, most of us stop thinking that we’re going to be astronauts and settle down to do things like be doctors, teachers, and freelance writers. But I still remember a time when I loved the thought of going up in space, and I still love to watch a shuttle launch.
But what fueled my dreams for perhaps a little bit longer than dreams of space are fueled was my visit to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. I had the opportunity to go through the 4-H program, and consequently requested special help from local and state 4-H entities that were more than happy to help send an Idaho girl to Space Camp. I saved some of my own money, too.
I spent an entire week, my first extended trip from home and my first plane ride as an unaccompanied minor, learning about being an astronaut. I got to “fly” in simulated space shuttles and help plan a lunar colony. I learned about the history of space travel and got into a space suit for a simulated zero gravity spacewalk. What more could a kid want? The experience left such an indelible impression on my young mind that now that I’m grown I still think about it during flights of fancy.
One of the highlights of the week was performing a simulated mission after going through “training.” We had practiced (one time even enjoying a simulated crash upon landing) and now my shuttle crew was ready to compete for the honors of the fastest mission completed. Payload scientists, spacewalkers, captains – all were assigned roles and we had to perform them very well to make the mission a success. We had a booklet of start up procedures and landing sequences, and we were careful to mostly memorize them. That mission was fun, and it taught me about what goes into a space flight. It isn’t all floating around; a lot of work goes into getting a space shuttle into the air.
The shuttle program will be scrapped within the next decade (if all goes according to plan), and I am excited to see the next generation of spacecraft. After all, at Space Camp we saw possible models. And I wonder: Will our lunar colony maybe look similar to the one I helped build in miniature?
Space Camp cemented a love of space that I have even now. And I can’t help indulging in the thought that when my son is old enough to go that he will find a great deal changed in the “training” exercises and history lessons.