For a while now, I’ve been meaning to write about my experiences at Space Camp® — I went twice in high school, in the summers of 1994 and 1995. (I say “Space Camp” because that’s what people commonly know; really, I attended Space Academy Level II, two years in a row. Now they call it Advanced Space Academy®, and it has a spiffy new logo. I am quite envious. Do they make it in a patch? Because I’d buy one.)
Anyway, I was sitting here today with my U.S. Space & Rocket Center “Danielle” mug (lovingly carried back from Huntsville and camp in 1995), thinking that it was high time I talked about my camp experience. Space Camp changed my life. Truly! Just now I discovered and filled out the Alumni Survey (because hey, why not?), and the questions prompted me along the same lines as what I hoped to post here. Here are a couple of questions, and my answers.
How did camp affect your life or career choice?
Space Academy II ABSOLUTELY changed my life. I was interested in spaceflight from a very early age, but grew up in a rural area with nobody around that shared my interests.
My first year at camp was just before my junior year of high school. I was in a team of eight (six guys, one other girl), and we INSTANTLY got along: we ALL loved science fiction, ALL wanted to be astronauts, ALL liked the same movies and books and “nerdy” hobbies. For the first time in my life, I felt like I BELONGED somewhere. I fit in. That was mind-boggling for me. I came back a changed person, “flying” my space-nerd colors openly at school, and caring far less about what the “cool” people thought of my interests.
In the end, my career took a different path than my childhood goal of becoming an astronaut, but to this day, Space Camp remains one of the most powerful, wonderful experiences of my life. It gave me a much-needed boost, and I’m very grateful to have gone not once, but twice!
I still have my flight suit (although some of the patches are no longer attached; I have no idea what possessed me to take them off, but at least I know where they are), my team photos, my name tag for the suit and my wings. And my coffee mug. ♥
Tell us your favorite, funniest, and/or most inspiring camp memory, tradition, or activity.
Funny memory: During EDM, a shuttle crew member became “sick” with “constipation”, which we had to diagnose and treat. She acted this out by doubling over and repeatedly moaning “I FEEL the PAIN!!”
[Ed: The above is all I could fit in the survey box. It leaves out the fact that we were DYING of laughter. DYING. The “medical condition” assignments we randomly got were supposed to be Taken Very Seriously. Believe me, nobody could help this sick crew member, NOBODY, because we were collapsed all over the simulator, on both decks, and on the ladder, DYING of laughter. The counselors couldn’t even get mad at us for not trying to diagnose the patient; they were laughing too.]
Both times I went, I was assigned to the shuttle pilot position, which is actually (imho) more fun (and intense!) than commander, because you have a LOT more switches to flip and buttons to press. (And procedures, OHHH the procedures.) My first EDM (extended-duration mission, the all-nighter/24-hour simulated mission), I was in Mission Control the whole time
which sucked, ahem, which was not nearly as fun. Tiger Team was very frustrating. My second EDM, I was on the shuttle, which was a great experience for the aforementioned pilot-switch-flipping aspect, aforementioned funny story, and I also got to command the space station during the second half, which was cool.
To finish this off
and to justify the several “digging” attempts to find this photo, here’s a picture of me and my dad, the day I flew home from Space Camp in 1994. (I wore my flight suit home. In fact, all of us that bought suits wore them flying home. We must have been a sight, running through the Atlanta airport..!!)