A summer trip to Rocket City
Space is the limit for 12-year-old Hudson Dragan who has set his sights on becoming an astronaut.
The Somersfield Academy student recently completed a weeklong Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, designed for young people with a passion for space exploration.
During the camp, Hudson and his team simulated space missions, explored replicas of rockets and space shuttles, and heard first-hand the experiences of an astronaut.
Hudson told The Royal Gazette that the camp had solidified his ambition to become an astronaut.
“I have always wanted to be a pilot or an astronaut,” he said. “It is like the final frontier — space is the harshest thing imaginable. There is nothing, literally nothing, and yet, we are going out and spending massive amounts of money to go to a place where man cannot survive without help at all.
“It is scary, totally, but I think, if I were to become an astronaut, it would be worth it. Something attracts me towards it.”
Space Camp at the centre's Space Academy operates year-round, and incorporates astronaut training techniques to engage students in real-world applications of Stem subjects.
Hudson, who lives in Paget with his parents and sister, joined about 50 other children on the Space Camp, and was involved in two simulated space missions, with a small team of students in his age group.
The Leo (Low Earth Orbit) Mission simulated a visit to the International Space Station while a Lunar Mission was a simulation of a journey to the Moon.
“For the lunar mission, we were divided into mission control, crew and capsules, and the lunar base. I was the pilot for the crew in the Orion capsule and helped launched the rocket and keep it on its path using a checklist.
“When we actually did the mission, we had little booklets which would show you at what time to press certain buttons and what to say, it was really challenging.
“There is Met (Mission Elapse Time), so you had to look at that — it starts at T minus two minutes and once it reaches zero, the rocket launches and it then starts counting up from T+ up and up.
“At certain times, you had to respond to certain things, or press certain buttons. It was quite stressful; you had to look at the screens and look at your booklet and then find the buttons. In theory, it sounds simple, but in practice, it wasn't. It was still really fun.”
Another team at the camp made what would have been a fatal error during its simulated lunar mission.
Hudson explained: “They forgot to dock with the lunar lander, and so, when they went through the hatch, they got sucked into space.
“We did good — we messed up when we were going into the lunar lander, but at least we were docked with it, and so we didn't get sucked into space. We all ‘survived'.”
During the Leo Mission, Hudson's team had to simulate a delivery to the ISS.
“There were anomalies,” he explained. “During launch, the oxygen ran out, and so we had to resolve that. We really had to work with other people to solve the anomalies and make sure everything was going okay.”
Mike Foreman, a space shuttle astronaut who worked on building the ISS, gave a presentation to the students to give them an idea of what it is like working in space.
“Mr Foreman was an astronaut on two space shuttle missions, and he talked about what it was like being on a space station, what positions he had. He walked through how to be an astronaut, and what it was like being in space.
“He said he didn't really miss home — the only thing he missed was a bed, because in space, you just float around and he had a hard time sleeping.
“Mr Foreman did five spacewalks. He was out there helping to move antennas and attach the first part of the Japanese laboratory, to the space station.”
Meeting like-minded people and working as a team was what Hudson enjoyed the most about his camp.
“I loved the simulations and the way that you bonded with your crew and your team. I would definitely do it again.”
• Anyone interested in Space Camp can visit www.spacecamp.com or call 1-800-637-7223