The 2006 Update

By Phil Reeder

Welcome to the first in a series of yearly articles which are intended to supplement the series I wrote about my first Space Camp adventure in 2005.


Space Camp is an incredible place for all those with a genuine interest in space exploration.

The many and varied programmes can be great fun to experience. But for those who want to take that experience to the ultimate, are ready, willing and able to give themselves over completely, and totally immerse themselves in the training experience of what it can be like to be trained as an astronaut, the 8-Day Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme is the programme to be a part of.

It takes a certain special kind of person to be part of this particular programme. Someone who has the ability to become totally dedicated to its goal of training someone to be an astronaut.

It's a programme which is mainly filled with hands on training, with many different training missions, and actual missions built into it. It's also a programme that has built into it all the problems that this type of situation can bring. The stress and the pressure put on YOU, will at times be intense, but it's also a programme which includes many technical lectures, briefings and special guest speakers which will help you bring all this hands-on training, stress and pressure into prospective.

The training staff on the 8-day programme, give 100% commitment to their training goal, and for you to get the best out of this programme you have to be ready, willing and able to give 100% commitment back

You have to be a strong willed individual, but you also have to have the ability to be a true team player.

It's a programme that will challenge your imagination and make you want to reach down inside yourself to give your all for the programmes goals. But you also need to be ready, willing and able to do that for the sake of yourself and your team mates around you.

It's a programme which has the ability and the potential, if you have the ability and the potential, to take you as near as it is possible for some of us to go, to becoming a real live astronaut.

If you feel you have the commitment necessary to be part of a truly great programme, then my advice is to make enquires via the camp's web site today.



Now on with the update

In the year since my last visit to Space Camp, the camp has gone through a number of interesting and exciting changes intended to enhance even more the excellent quality of training service the camp provides for its many and varied customers from around the World.

In this article I'll cover each of the areas we, as trainees on the 8-Day Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme moved through and describe in detail what changes have taken place. At this point I would like to suggest to all those who are reading one of my Space Camp articles for the first time, that you access the series of eight individual "day articles" I wrote on my first space camp adventure, as these will help bring everything which follows into perspective and make things easier to understand.

The Mission Control Complex


The Mission Control Complex or MCC as it is more commonly referred is the vast training area in which the trainees spend most of their time training for the missions they will undertake whilst on the 8-Day Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme. During the last twelve months the Westar Communications Satellite simulator which can be found initially suspended over the cargo bay of the Enterprise Space Shuttle simulator has been upgraded to a dual purpose usage so that a "Blackstar" scenario can be run using it. The Blackstar scenario differs from the Westar scenario in that it is relies more on internal equipment replacement and installation rather than the antenna replacement and installation scenario that the Westar scenario runs.


The main equipment section (the rear end) of the Hubble Space Telescope has been added to the floor of the MCC and allows for TWO different types of repair and maintenance scenarios to be carried out on it. It was intended that one of the two scenarios play a part in our LDM (Long Duration Mission) experience, but due to a power outage which affected the entire Huntsville area during the LDM this part of the mission had to be scrubbed and an EASE/ACCESS mission substituted in its place when the power eventually came back on at full strength.

Canadarm Two

For all of those who know, the Canadarm installed on the side of the cargo bay of the space shuttle plays a vital part in the shuttles ability to be able to manipulate items out of, and in to the cargo bay of the shuttle. The arm is also used as an aid in the construction of the International Space Station and has in the past been used to deploy and retrieve satellites in Earth orbit (including the Hubble Space Telescope). A Canadarm features on the Enterprise space shuttle simulator in the MCC.

A second Canadarm (Canadarm 2) has been designed so that it can be installed onto one of the ISS modules on the floor of the MCC. This second arm is in the process of being developed further but was available for use by the 8-Day Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme trainees. At the present time this second Canadarm's usage is restricted, in that it can only be used by the trainees, working in pairs to perform an EVA, via hanging harness, to construct the arm's various sections along the side of one of the ISS modules.

The Node

Extensions to the MCC's International Space Station set-up have now moved from just being confined to the MCC's floor to the inclusion of a second level node which is attached to one of the ISS modules near the centre of the MCC's floor. The node has been quipped so that it can act as an observation platform for the entire floor area of the MCC and cameras are installed in the node which also allow observations to be made inside all the ISS modules as well.

The NEW Helmets

During my year one experience, I had the good fortune to meet and get to know Nathan "Smiley" Williams, the person responsible for the design and construction of the Department of Defense satellite that Mike, Greg and I had been required to work on during our 24 hour LDM experience. One of the things Smiley has been doing in the last 12 months was completely redesigning the helmets the trainees use on the floor of the MCC. The fit of the new helmets is now much more comfortable, and new lights and fans with deflectors have been installed inside the helmets to help the trainees stay even cooler during their EVA's. Once again Smiley has excelled himself in providing excellent, first rate equipment for the trainees to be able to use at Space Camp.

Area 51

Area 51, the area designed to act as a team building complex for both Space Camp and its sister side Aviation Challenge has been relocated to an area only a few hundred yards up the road from the Aviation Challenge site. This area has undergone an incredible transformation since its relocation and it is my understanding that even more changes are planned for the coming months. The area is truly a credit to the people who designed it and the staff from both Space Camp and Aviation Challenge who operate it. The two centre pieces of the New Area 51 have to be the 30 foot high climbing pole with its 12 inch diameter plate on the top of it, and the 50 feet high climbing tower with its 200 yard zip line.

The Underwater Astronaut Trainer (UAT)

In the Space Camp Special article I wrote earlier this year, I described the Underwater Astronaut Trainer (or UAT as it is more commonly referred) as "The Jewel in Space Camp's Crown". My fellow trainees from the 8-Day Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme of 2005 and I still agree this to be the truth.

In the last 12 months this area has also undergone changes which include the installation of two fixed mount, colour television cameras, and a third hand held camera, all of which are connected to a complex surface monitoring station with attached DVD recorder which now allows the trainees to have DVD recordings of their scuba and helmet dive experiences.

Last year during our "helmet" dive experience we had only one helmet available for use, but this year a second helmet was available allowing two person mission operations scenarios to be conducted at the bottom of the UAT. New mission equipment has also been designed for use on the floor of the UAT which now allows for the construction of a new solar panel array on the side of the satellite structure found on the floor of the UAT.



The Saturn 5 Restoration Project

One of the last remaining original Saturn Five rockets can be seen by visitors to the US Space and Rocket Centre at Huntsville, Alabama. Sadly, this monument to US space fairing achievement has not stood well the test of time, being exposed outside to the elements. It is now in the process of being restored by a dedicated team of amateurs and professionals to its former glory. I am very pleased to be able to report that work has started on clearing ground at the US Space and Rocket Centre for a building to house the Saturn 5 and I am sure that once the building has been completed and the Saturn 5 restored and installed this building will become the centre piece of the US Space and Rocket Centres many display items.

Well that's the updates to the physical facilities at Space Camp and the US Space and Rocket Centre that I know of. Now time to talk about how the programme for the 8-Day Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme had changed for the trainees in the last twelve months.

The US Space and Rocket Centre Education Centre

Originally situated on the ground of the US Space and Rocket Centre, just a few feet from the centre's main museum complex, the Education Centre has now relocated to a new building approximately 200 yards down the road from the main Space Camp site. The quality of service they offer is still excellent as I found out when I visited the Education Centre to request information on future US space fairing projects.


My encounter with the programme for the 8-Day Advanced Adult Space Academy students the previous year had left me with a feeling of awe. We had done so much, in such a short period of time. How could this programme ever get any better - well trust me it had.

The one hour missions and the training missions which preceded them have now been supplemented with two hour missions and training missions to prepare you for them. The visits to Area 51 (now the new Area 51) had been increased, the lectures, some of which have to remain the same to take into account any new people on the programme, have been increased also to include a fantastic lecture by Ed Stewart called "The Vision" on the planned future of US space exploration via its proposed Orion and Ares' programmes, and how these programmes will eventually take mankind back to the Moon and beyond. YES, in the last twelve months the staff at Space Camp have worked very, very hard and excelled themselves at making better a programme which was incredible to start with.

We can only sit back and wait to see what wonders they manage to pull out of the magic hat for next year.

Phil Reeder

December 2006.