The 2007 Update
By Phil Reeder
Welcome to the second in a series of yearly update articles which are intended to supplement the series of one-day articles I wrote about my first Space Camp adventure in 2005.
BUT FIRST A LITTLE BIT OF CATCH UP
In last year's 2006 update article I made mention of all of the exciting changes which had taken place at, and were still taking place at Space Camp since my first visit in 2005. I made mention of these changes in writing, but like a complete idiot I forgot to take the pictures which are so necessary to bring some of these changes to life. One of the first things I did on reaching camp this year was to correct that error and at various points in this article you will see the pictures you should have seen last year with mention of any further updates which have taken place to these facilities since last year:-
The NEW MCC Helmets
Once again Nathan "Smiley" Williams has worked is particular brand of magic on the floor of the MCC and created a fully, self contained communications system to be worn by the trainees using the new helmets which first appeared last year. The new communication system is similar in design to the "snoopy caps" worn by the real astronauts when taking part in EVA's during space missions, and goes one step further in bring that extra touch of realism to the entire Space Camp experience (See Pictures)
The Underwater Astronaut Trainer (UAT)
Shown here are the pictures you should have seen last year of the new surface communication and camera suite console (See Pictures).
Still considered by myself and my fellow veterans on the Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme to be the "Jewel in Space Camp's Crown" the helmets used in the UAT have been given the same type of self-contained "snoopy cap" communications system as the ones used on the floor of the MCC. The only important difference between the two systems is that the one used in the UAT has been waterproofed for obvious reasons.
The US Space and Rocket Centre Education Centre
In last years update I reported on the new US Space and Rocket Centre Education Centre, which is located approximately 200 yards down the road from the main Space Camp site. I can once again report that the quality of service they offer is still excellent, as I found out when I once again visited the Education Centre to request information on future US space fairing projects and to take both the external and internal photographs you can see here (See Pictures).
The Saturn 5 Restoration Project
What a difference a year can make. During my visit to Space Camp in 2006; the ground had only just started to be cleared for the site of the building which would, when once completed, house the US Space and Rockets Centre's Saturn 5, both during and after the completion of its restoration project.
The year since my last visit has seen an incredible amount of building work done on the Saturn 5's new home, and a series of both major and minor miracles take place to re-house the Saturn 5 in its new home and restore the Saturn 5 to its former glory (See Pictures).
One of the our scheduled items for our week at Space Camp was a chance to once again "Meet the Curator", and Irene Willhite, the incredible curator of the US Space and Rocket Centre took us through the step by step journey the Saturn 5 had, had to make to reach its new home, and then went on to describe the love and affection which has been lavished on this incredible machine by a dedicated team of both amateurs and professionals to bring it back to its former glory.
The work is still on going, both on building and Saturn 5, but it is our understanding that the completed project is intended to be open to be seen by the general public sometime in January of next year (2008). If you zoom in on the external pictures I took you can just see the Saturn 5 inside its new home.
The NEW Area 51
Please see pictures showing the two main features of the new Area 51, the thirty-foot high Pamper Pole and fifty-foot high Climbing Tower and Zip Line - neither of these are for the faint hearted.
Please see the pictures, which you should have seen last year.
An "abort from launch pad" is one of the things that all astronauts train for as an aid to escaping from a craft before it has even left the ground. Once the astronauts have moved as fast as possible to exit the spacecraft, the next thing is to exit the launch pad tower as quickly and safely as possible. A flight of stairs could be considered fast, a lift even faster, but the one which allows the maximum amount of distance to be covered in the shortest possible time is the "Zip-Line".
For our "abort from Launch pad" training we used a zip-line which is connected to the top of a fifty foot high tower at Aviation Challenge. The zip-line extends over an artificially created lake and brings the user down into water approximately three hundred years from the base of the tower. In previous years exit from the lake has required climbing up onto a concrete embankment which surrounds the lake at various levels, this year we had a ladder to use to make our lake egress so much easier (sorry no picture of the ladder).
Dr Von Tiesenhausen
No Space Camp article, whether it is a full scale series, or just an update article like this one, would be complete without a mention of that grand old man of space, Dr George Von Tiesenhausen or Dr Von T as he is lovingly referred to at Space Camp.
Our schedule for the week would once again feature a lecture by Dr Von T on the origin of the universe and the wonders it has to behold. This is the third time I have had the honour and the privilege to be in the company of this 93 year old veteran of the US space programme and once again his words would be spoken with a power and a passion which could rise up an American launch vehicle on its column of fire and flame and send it into Earth orbit and beyond.
At 93 he is still going strong and it is my hope that he will still be going strong in the years to come. I asked him at the end of his lecture if he would autograph my Mars Once Crew Manual, which I had brought especially from the UK for just such an opportunity. It was not until I got back home to the UK that had the opportunity to read what he had written - "To Phil - Make a Difference" - What an incredible gentlemen.
Once again our series of Space Camp lecturers featured Ed Stewart's "Vision" presentation on NASA's new Constellation Programme with its Orion and Ares projects. Ed would once again take us through the entire planned scenario for Orion with its Crew Exploration Vehicle and the Areas One and Five heavy lift boosters outlining the progress which had been made during the last year and also outlining in detail any changes which had taken place to the original concept designs.
Now on with the update
If I was required to give this article a title other than The Space Camp - The 2007 Update, a title which truly does justice to the incredibly hard work done by the teams of people who work in the various areas of Space Camp, the areas which we, the trainees on the 8-day Advanced Space Academy Programme come into contact with, year after year, it would have to be "How do you improve on perfection?"
To my mind there is only way it could be done, and this is the way that the people at Space Camp have found to do it. Take everything which is perfect to start with, and extend those lines even further. In previous years, at the end of the programme, the trainees have been given a programme evaluation form to complete and this also gives's an opportunity to make suggestions on how we, the trainees, think the programme could be made better.
Each year we have made various suggestions, and each year the people at Space Camp have done their level best to put these suggestions into practice. We asked for better facilities for the UAT. The UAT got better facilities. We asked for longer and more complicated missions and the training missions that precede them. What did we get but longer missions and the training to go with them?
Each year we ask. Each year we are given. To my mind this goes a long way to making Space Camp one of the best training facilities I have had the honour and privilege to be a part of. There's one other thing that makes Space Camp so special. You are not just a paying number, you are made to feel part for the entire Space Camp family and that makes the entire experience so very, very special to all who have the opportunity to be a part of it.
Lectures play a big part in the Space Camp experience for the trainees on the eight day Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme. They are one of the things which help to bring all the physical training into prospective and they also allow you the chance meet some incredible people.
Ed Buckbee, author, lecturer, space advocate and director emeritus of Space Camp, has been a part of the American space programme, in one shape or another, for nearly 50 years. He was present at the launch of Project Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard and John Glenn. He was also present at the launch of the Apollo astronauts on their various trips to the Moon and is even now still associated with NASA.
In 1970, he was selected by Werner Von Braun to be the first director of the US Space and Rocket Centre at Huntsville, in Alabama and was one of the founder's of the US Space Camp and Aviation Challenger programmes.
It is therefore with great pleasure that I report in this article that one of our guest lecturers for our eight day stay at Space Camp was none other than Ed Buckbee, who thrilled us all with his first hand knowledge of the space programme from its early days up until the present time.
As part of the lecture we were also presented with copies of his book, "The Real Space Cowboy's" which was written in collaboration with ex Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronaut Wally Schirra and at the end of the lecture Ed Buckbee also agreed to sign our copies of his book. A book which now has pride of place in my library back here in the UK .
This years camp gave me the opportunity to witness first hand the excellent support that Space Camp is able to offer to those of us who have, for one reason or another, not been gifted with the full range of senses that most of us have access to.
The camp has gone to incredible lengths in its attempts to provide a worldly environment which is user friendly for everyone no matter what their circumstances, which includes the availability of special equipment and personnel, and when combined with the team camaraderie which has either been forged in the past and once again come together from years gone by, or has been inspired in new people by the family atmosphere which the veterans of the programme provide, also ensures that we the trainees play our part in the support available to our less fortunate fellow team-mates. I think one of my fellow team-mates Carol Johnson sums it up perfectly, after a fashion, when she talks about the Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme group being an inclusive group, and not an exclusive group when it come to admitting new people into its ranks. The same can be said of Space Camp and the stance it has taken towards those of us who are less fortunate, they will not let this exclude you from coming to camp, they want to include you in their world and if that means their world has to change to meet your needs, then that is what will be done if possible.
Last year within our group we had with us someone who was visually challenged and the group came together to support this person to the best of our ability in helping them navigate the world that is Space Camp. This year's group had not one, but two people who were in the same situation and once again we came together as a team to offer as much support as possible to our fellow crew mates when it came time to once again navigate Space Camp's world.
But there is only so much you can do in certain situations, and when this years group also had within it someone who was both hearing and speech challenged there was little we could do to support our fellow team mate except in a general visual manner (using written notes) and this is where the incredible support structure at Space Camp came to our aid and took up our slack magnificently. Not one, but two support workers were employed on a double shift basis so that our team mate could be provided with as much support as possible to enable them to participate as fully as we, in the full range of experiences that Space Camp has to offer.
Once again Space Camp has proven beyond a doubt, that no matter what the challenge they are more than ready to help you meet it.
Well that's about all for this years update article. For those of you who were hoping for a more detailed account of life at Space Camp I can only suggest that you try to read the series of articles I wrote on my first Space Camp adventure back in 2005 and then go on to read the update articles which have followed them.
I have come to realise even more in these follow-on years how important my first year at Space Camp really was. The small, compact group of people that I was a part of (7) during my first year at Space Camp gave me the opportunity to experience first hand everything that Space Camp has to offer.
What also made the experience so much more worth while was the way this incredible group of people took me, a complete rookie, into their group, their family, thus allowing me to experience so much more than I would have had, had I been a part of a larger group.
You tie these two things together and it provided me with the drive, initiative and the material to write not only an article for each day of my stay at Space Camp, but the material to write a Space Camp Special article as well.
Since 2005, the groups have got larger, but this has not lessened the experience. The only thing it has lessened is the time I have had to get my thoughts into words for writing "full day" articles for each of the years after 2005.
It is my hope to see you all here again, this time, next year, when hopefully I will have just finished the 2008 Space Camp up-date article.