Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Space Camp

I was shown this promotional video back in 1995 in my Young Astronauts club.

Yes, I was a full on nerd at a young age. I stayed willingly after school for my Young Astronauts club and I loved it.

The club was not funded by the school, so any sort of field trips or anything were funded by us. We didn't do many. I think we went to the Science Center in St. Louis once. 

Well in 6th grade, the teacher, Miss Sims, put the club on her shoulders and decided we would go to the Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama. 

My parents scraped together a few hundred dollars, I sold wrapping paper and candy door to door, and I handed over my envelope with cash to Miss Sims with a giant smile on my face. I was ready to become an astronaut.

I was ready for the underwater training. I couldn't wait to land a space shuttle. I was prepared for my moonwalk. This video had me hyped for Space Camp more than anything else. 

It came time to actually go, I crammed into my chaperonage's tan Ford Taurus with their daughter who was also a Young Astronaut, their son who was along for the ride, and another guy from the club that I don't remember anything about. 

I was extremely susceptible to car sickness as a kid, so this was a huge concern. Surprisingly, I felt great most the car ride. That is, until we stopped at a Wendy's in Southern Tennessee where I bragged about how fast I could eat.

Their son that challenged me to eat 3 junior cheeseburgers faster than this double bacon cheeseburger. Being a guy that never backed down from food related challenges, I accepted... and won.

Now the gamble that you take when eating at a rural fast food restaurant is "will my food be fresh" and "how often do health inspectors come through."

This was a gamble I lost shortly after arriving to Space Camp, roughly 25 minutes into a conference where a few hundred kids crowded into a room and an astronaut talked about what it was like to be in space. I tapped my team leaders arm asking if I could go to the bathroom. He said, wait a few minutes and then I vomited all over the construction grade carpeting screeching the conference to a halt. 

The Space Camp nurse gave me crackers and Sprite and had me call my parents with my sweet calling card to tell them that I was throwing up and there was nothing they could do about it. 

As part of the Space Camp experience, you're supposed to get to stay in the "habitat." It's a dormitory that is made up to look like the Space Station. Well, as part of this craptastic weekend, Space Camp had over booked the habitat. So, not having bought the premium Space Camp package, our little rag tag group stayed in the Howard Johnson down the street, where I proceeded to continue vomiting everywhere. (Side note, because of this, I did not eat Wendy's again until college)

So the next day, I woke up feeling really great. I was ready to hit the ground running. Time to land a damn shuttle on Mars. 

Nope... not happening. Turns out, all the cool stuff they showed in the video is part of the premium package. So, we got access to the museum, the centrifuge, and a few small "science" experiments where you basically tried to stack blocks in a tank of water. The worst part of this was that the cafeteria we ate in circled all the cool moon walking and stuff. So while we ate our cafeteria food, we got to hear the joy of all the kids bouncing around like they were nearly weightless.

We did get to try to launch a shuttle which was pretty awesome, except that our pilot immediately crashed the shuttle and because the camp was so busy, we didn't get another chance. 

I rode the centrifuge no less than 13 times that weekend because after a stroll through the museum and a few pictures in front of the Space Shuttle, there wasn't much else to do. 

On our last day, we were shuffled onto a tram where we were driven around and shown the Aviation Challenge Camp, all of the NASA training equipment like the huge underwater tank, and all the discarded rocket parts. 

I stopped by the gift shop on the way out, buying astronaut ice cream and a few models to build and we drove home through tornadoes in Southern Illinois. 

Would I go back to Space Camp? Absolutely. It's a great memory and had some cool stuff. 

However, I would be in charge of planning and I would definitely get to land a damn shuttle on Mars.