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Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama: A Meaningful Experience

By Robert Balwinder

Huntsville, Alabama's Space Camp

Every kid's most fervent dream is to experience what it is like to be an astronaut. The NASA sponsored Space camp in Huntsville, Alabama makes this dream a possibility. The week long programs help the kid experience what its like to be an astronaut. Some of these programs are offered along with other community programs like 4-H. Attending a Space Camp can be one of the most meaningful and interesting experiences of your child's life.

The Space Camp program in Alabama has an age limit, and the full camp is available to kids who are at least 12 years old. Of course, there are special programs at the center for younger kids that offer many activities they do not quite appreciate. However, it gives them the chance to assert that they are old enough to be away from home.

The programs and activities at Space Camp are designed to awaken creativity and curiosity. The kids learn to design a lunar colony, and attend classes and seminars to know about the history of the space program. They learn about the Soviet space program as well as the United States program in these classes. They are also taken on trips to the museum to gain an education experience.

But Space Camp would not be fun if sitting in classes and designing lunar colonies is all that went on. There are life size mock-ups of space shuttles to explore. The quarters themselves (complete with bunks) look like they could be on a space station or colony, not somewhere in Alabama. But the best part of Space Camp is the "astronaut training."

All kids who attend Space Camp are put through astronaut training. Space suits are fitted for the kids so they get to experience what that feels like. There are centrifuge rides to help the kids feel the pressure of gravity and zero gravity simulations to help them experience weightlessness. Using simulators, they are also taught to "fly" spacecraft like the shuttle. Not to forget, the kids can use a contraption that helps them experience what it feels like to walk on the moon.

After going through all of the "training," the Space Camp participants get to run a simulated mission. Everyone on board the ship has a role (pilot, payload specialist, space walk, etc.) to play in completing the mission successfully. And, because sequencing and time are important in real space missions, these are elements present in the simulated mission. If you mess up, your simulator shakes you around and you know what it is like to crash and burn.

A group may get an opportunity to run the mission more than once, if time permits, thus giving the kids a chance to play different roles in the mission. The mission is a fun, hands-on learning experience for the young space campers.

Space Camp is an effective and fun way to spark an interest in space and in science. Kids go through a practical program in a learning atmosphere that transports them far away from its location in Huntsville, Alabama.

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