Sunday, October 19, 2014

Camping in Space

Click the arrow to watch the Alyssa Carson interview on CBS This Morning.

Huntsville's Space Camp was founded in 1982, according to its web site, “to inspire and motivate young people from around the world to join the ranks of space pioneers who persevere to push the boundaries of human exploration.”

I became aware of the program in 1986 when, less than five months after the Challenger accident, a movie called SpaceCamp was released in theatres. The movie is a bit silly, but at its core was the message that, give a positive direction early in life, youth can make a contribution to the future of humanity.

I was 29 when the film was released, too young for the kiddie corps, but found out they also offered adult programs. I attended Space Camp's adult program in November 1986, then returned in 1989 and 1994. During the 1994 visit, my peers voted me the Right Stuff award, which sits here on my desk.

I credit Space Camp with helping to start me on the journey that brought me from California to here on the Space Coast, where I'm now part of the third generation of human spaceflight.

That third generation might include Alyssa Carson, a 13-year old from Louisiana who puts my Space Camp record to shame.

According to her web site, Alyssa has been to the Hunstville Space Camp twelve times, as well as the Space Camps in Canada and Turkey, and the Sally Ride Camp.

Her call sign “Blueberry” was given her at Space Camp due to her diminutive size and the blue Space Camp flight suit she wears.

(My powder blue Space Camp flight suit from 1986 still hangs in the closet, but alas it no longer fits ... Let's see if yours fits when you're 58, Alyssa.)

In recent weeks, Alyssa has become a media sensation, including appearances on CBS This Morning and Al Jazeera America. She has also given a TedX talk, in Kalamata, Greece. She says her goal is to be on a human spaceflight to Mars.

Click the arrow to watch Alyssa Carson's TedX talk in Kalamata, Greece on June 7, 2014. Video source: trebprod YouTube channel.

You can follow her exploits on Twitter at @NASABlueberry1.

Another Space Camp alumna is Abigail Harrison, who goes by Astronaut Abby. Her web site is and you can follow her on Twitter at @AstronautAbby. She's four years older than Alyssa. Abby has also been invited to give a TedX lecture.

Click the arrow to watch Abigail Harrison's TedX talk in Tampa on October 25, 2013. Video source: TEDx Talks YouTube channel.

Space Camp alumni are changing the world. The Space Camp Hall of Fame includes Samantha Cristoforetti, scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on Expedition 42 on November 23. Samantha attended Space Camp at age 18.

When SpaceX launched its first Dragon demonstration flight ot the International Space Station on May 22, 2012, a Space Camp alumna was standing in the front row of the employees watching outside Mission Control. Watch for the Space Camp T-shirt.

SpaceX employees watch the Falcon 9 launch the Dragon COTS demonstration flight on May 22, 2012. Video source: SpaceX YouTube channel.

The Space Camp web site credits Dr. Wernher von Braun for the original Space Camp idea. Von Braun “reasoned there should be an experience for young people who were excited about space.” He passed away in 1977, but Space Camp began five years later.

Maybe, one day, we'll see a Space Camp on Mars. Led by Blueberry and Astronaut Abby.

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