Tuesday, 4 September 2012

This One Time at Space Camp

This summer I took part in what can only be described as a life changing experience. 

The 25th annual Space Studies Program, run by the International Space University (ISU) was hosted at  Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) and NASA Kennedy Space Centre (KSC). I spent 9 weeks in Melbourne, FL from June to August living, working and enjoying the summer with 133 other participants from 31 countries and left having made many friends for life.

The Class of SSP'12

Space Shuttle Atlantis below the
 sunrise at KSC

The Atlas V launch from NASA
KSC (picture credit to Graeme Taylor)
Witnessing both the Atlas V and Delta Heavy IV rocket launches from  the very same VIP balcony that President Obama and his family use; my dreams of seeing into the stars quite literally came true. Overlooking the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at KSC, we watched the sunrise over the shuttle and rocket launch pads in awe of the beauty that the combination of science and nature presented before us.

We were also lucky enough to see Space Shuttle Atlantis being transported into the VAB and visit Space Shuttle Endeavour in its resting place of the Orbiter Processing Facility  (OPF). The first Korean astronaut, Soyeon Yi was one of the visiting faculty on the course. She assigned us with the task of building Rube Goldberg machines in teams, that would function as one synchronous machine on competition day (this did not go as smoothly as planned)! I also took part in a robot building competition, in which my team's robot 'Goblin' avoided and collected enough obstacles and gems in order to come in second place. The Engineering department students built and launched rockets from pad 39A, the very launchpad used during the Apollo and Shuttle eras. This was the first time the iconic pad has been permitted for student-use, so the media were also in attendance and I even got my five seconds of fame on a US news channel!

Korean astronaut Soyeon Yi, participant Julie Mason and I in front of the

My team's robot, Goblin.
Rocket Launch Day at Pad 39A

Attending lectures given by visionaries within the space industry such as Dr. John Logsdon, Dr. Chris Welch, Chris Stott and Professor Jim Dator; I was provided with a taste of what has been and what can be done both on Earth and in Space in order to ensure the survival and establishment of humanity within the solar system and beyond. Attending an enlightening Soffen Memorial Panel at NASA Kennedy Space Centre, given by distinguished idividuals such as Bill Nye the Science Guy and Scott Hubbard, former NASA Program director and Ames director; my peers and I were left with a strong sense of optimism and drive towards scientific advancements for space travel.

Bill Nye the Science Guy and I
My visit to the KSC Space Life Science Lab as part of
the Space and Society department

 I took part in the Space and Society department, which took me to places such as the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), the International Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) and the Space Life Sciences Lab (SLSL). I also contributed to the Team Project: Next Generation Space Station (NGSS). I worked on and presented projects within my department and team project, resulting in the production of an executive report which we presented as a team during the final week of SSP'12. The process of researching and forming my own ideas and contributing to a team project gave me an insight into the dynamics of working within the space industry.

An international astronaut panel held at KSC and directed by astronaut director Bob Cabana was a fascinating chance to hear directly from astronauts what their personal experiences of being in space were and how it affected them both physically and mentally. Nicole Stott (two shuttle missions), Garrett Reisman (two shuttle missions), James Voss (five shuttle missions), Kent Rominger (five shuttle missions) Ken Bowersox (five shuttle missions), Winston Stott (two shuttle missions) and Chiaki Mukai (two shuttle missions for JAXA) spoke to us and took questions for over an hour before joining us for a reception, giving them the opportunity to speak to participants individually. 

The International Astronaut Panel held at KSC
Astronaut Nicole Stott and I
The TEDxISU event

It wasn't all work however, we were treated with an enlightening 'Behind the Magic' talk and day out at Disneyland, courtesy of NASA KSC. Days spent at Universal studios, Melbourne beach, learning to fly over the Florida coastline, listening to inspiring TEDxISU talks, watching 4th July and Epcot fireworks, enjoying a space masquerade ball with ISU alumni as well as our weekly culture and karaoke nights ...all formed the icing on top of the unforgettable journey that this summer has been.

Ending with a beautiful reception under the Saturn V rocket, following a Closing Ceremony given by notable speakers such as SSP Program Director Gary Martin and NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, SSP'12 drew to a  close and we spent the last night saying our goodbyes and sharing stories of the past 9 weeks. However, we are sure to meet again as the elected class speaker and my friend Johnathan Conley said at the Closing Ceremony, "If space is truly infinte then so are the possibilities contained within it. Together we'll build an incredible future".  

UK Culture Night

The Space
Masquerade Ball
Receiving my Space Studies Program Diploma
from SSP Director Gary Martin and Associate Dean Angie Buckley

- Nikita

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