Thursday, August 7, 2014

International Space Camp, Part 3: Astronaut Simulations and Three of West Virginia's Finest

Must. Type. Fast. Please pardon the typos.

On Wednesday our groups engaged in some NASA lesson plan instruction, then made our way to the astronaut simulators, located in the "gym" connected to the cafeteria. The two simulators we were able to experience were the Multi-Axis Trainer (MAT) chair and the 1/6 Gravity Chair. The MAT chair simulates free fall in an anti-gravity environment. You just whip around unexpectedly in every direction for 30 seconds to a minute - it doesn't make you dizzy or nauseous. The 1/6 Gravity Chair lets you experience how much gravity you would have on the moon and how you would move around in that environment. It's difficult if you don't have a lot of mass to begin with but fun to bounce around and try to make some purposeful movement.
Getting strapped in!


Survived the MAT!

1/6 Gravity Chair

Trying to move forward!

I bounced a lot, but trying to "moon walk" not so much

After that we watched an IMAX on the history of the space shuttle program. It was neat to connect what we had experienced in the simulations that week to the "real thing." On the way over I had to get a few more pictures of Pathfinder. I kind of love this thing and all it stands for in the space program.

Another side view

From the front

From the back

The shuttle would sit on this on the launch pad...

Some more info about Pathfinder.

That afternoon we had the opportunity to hear from the founder of Space Camp, Ed Buckbee. He is originally from Romney, West Virginia, and attended West Virginia University. Ed worked in public affairs for NASA and was the publicist for the original seven astronauts. He has written a book, The Real Space Cowboys, about his experience at NASA and working with the first men in space.
Ed Buckbee

The Original Seven

I really love this quote, not just for how it applies to the
astronauts but for where I am right now in my life.

Another West Virginian that I can't go without mentioning is Dan Oates, the current coordinator of the Space Camp program. He is also from Romney and is a former teacher at the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. Dan has made incredible contributions to the Space Camp program and making it accessible to students with disabilities. You can read more about Dan at this link (scroll to the bottom of the page, as Dan was in the first group of inductees into the Space Camp Hall of Fame.

We made a quick trip back to the dorms to change after dinner, then headed back to the Davidson Center to meet and hear some inspirational words from no other than Homer Hickam, former NASA engineer, author, and Coalwood, West Virginia, native.
Davidson Center

Saturn IV

It is suspended from the ceiling. Getting in one shot is
impossible, but hopefully you can tell how amazing it is - it's
truly a work of art.

Another view

Top section

The section where the astronauts would be located.

With my dorm mates Claire Bacus (American Samoa) LuAnn Lindskov
(South Dakota) and Darleen Sutton (South Carolina)

I had been looking forward to this the entire trip. I was so excited to meet Homer because he represents to the students in West Virginia (and everywhere) that as he states, "planning, patience, and perseverance" can lift you out of your circumstances. I am so glad I had the chance to speak with him. Right before I moved on, I had an idea. No...don't ask. Then I thought of that quote from We Bought a Zoo about just taking "20 seconds" and decided to go for it.

Well of course! Berkeley has to write about
meeting Homer, you know?

"Mr. Hickam, would you mind taping a short message for West Virginia students about the importance of focusing on their education?"

And that is why it never hurts to ask. Mr. Hickam gave a wonderful reflection on his life and the role of teachers in his life after the meet-and-greet. Astronaut simulations and rocket viewing aside, this was the highlight of my Space Camp experience.
Sharing excerpts from "Rocket Boys"

Amazingly, tomorrow was our graduation from Space Camp. For a week that didn't look like it was going to get off the ground (for real), once we were there it sure went by faster than a speeding rocket.

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