Space Camp Report!

From: Patrick (patrickfwd@yahoo.com)
Date: Fri Jul 14 2000 - 18:52:20 PDT

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    Hi everybody, I'm back from Space Camp!  It was a lot of fun, and I met some great kids there, including a few (casual) sat
    observers! I guess I should start out by saying that the satellite observing in Huntsville was a complete bust, so if you are
    looking for sat observation reports move on to the next email :).  With over 1000 kids at camp at a time, the councilors didn't have
    time to spend on a few kids who wanted to go outside after "lights out" to watch satellites.  My iridium flare was at 10:30 or so,
    and at that time we weren't outside and couldn't get our councilor to let us out, so I wasn't able to fool them with the alien
    trick.  I was surprised to find a few other kids who wouldn't have been fooled, because they had already watched a few Iridiums.
    Apart from Iridiums, no other sats would have been visible for a bunch of reasons.  I'm not sure if this is true all or most of the
    time, but around Huntsville the seeing was ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE.  I couldn't see a star above about 30-40 degrees altitude, there was
    always a ring of haze in the lower half of the sky, I suppose from the heat and humidity, that made sat watching (except for right
    overhead) pretty much impossible.  Also, Space Camp has decided that it is a good idea to shine HUGE lights directly up into the
    night sky.  The place
    gives off a ton of light pollution in trying to keep their rocket farm and Space Shuttle visible and they ruin the sky for miles
    around.  The only two stars I ever managed to see were Vega and Arcturus, so you can see why I didn't bother trying to watch any
    non-Iridium sats.  BTW there were no ISS or Mir passes the whole time! :( All that said, Space Camp was great, and the lack of sat
    watching was only a minor nuisance.
        I could type out all the stuff we did but that would take too long and it would be boring, so I'll just tell about the two most
    fun things.  Probably the most fun was visiting Marshall Space Flight Center, which is only about half a mile away.  I had figured
    the place was gonna be an old dump in the middle of no where that was long ago retired to some kind of national monument or
    whatever.  You can imagine how surprised I was when we walked into a building, and there behind a window were two pieces of the ISS!
    <I took pictures and I'll scan them and put them on a web site or something within the next few days> The first chunk I saw was just
    the same size and shape as the laboratory that is now being pressure tested at the Cape.  When I saw it at first I thought it was
    the lab (It looked much the same as in the pictures), but then I realized it didn't have the red collar and that the lab I was
    thinking of was a few hundred miles south east of me waiting to be put on a rocket.  The piece I was looking at was the US's
    habitation module, less than half complete.  So that was really cool. Then over to the right was a six door connecting node, that
    will probably never be put in space because Italy is now planning on building two of them.  And remember I'm seeing all this just
    hours after Russia launched
    the long awaited Zvezda, so my little trip couldn't have been more timely.  Then we went into another room and got to see an air
    lock that is almost complete, and according to our tour guide will be launched in September.  I'm not sure I believe that because I
    didn't know there was a shuttle launch in September, was the guy crazy or is it me?  It was really cool to see all the guys in
    white surgeon suits spraying stuff on the airlock and going about there tasks, it looked like they were having a lot of fun.  Then
    it was off on the bus again.  We saw the site where the Redstone rockets were tested, along with NASA's countless rocket test
    stands, and all the bunkers that the operators used to sit in, complete with their eight inch thick steel doors. (wow!)
    Marshall's Website-  www.msfc.nasa.gov
        Ok so enough about Marshall.  The most fun thing we did that was actually IN space camp was the neutral buoyancy scuba tank.  It
    was a circular tank 24 feet deep and I'd say about 20-25 feet wide.  They took every precaution in letting us Scuba dive.  We had
    physicals before and after, and we had to sign our lives away and take a little test.  It was about an hour of training on a five
    foot platform, and then we were actually deep underwater for about 20-25 minutes (too short!), so altogether we had the scuba stuff
    on for maybe 90 minutes.  Only 3 out of our nine person group made it down:  one had heart problems, one didn't have parental
    permission, and four made it half way down and then came back up because they had a little trouble equalizing.  They were sissies if
    you ask me. Twenty four feet of water cant do jack squat to your ears, no matter how fast you come up or go down, but they
    apparently thought otherwise.  My ears hurt for a while but there wasn't a chance in hell I was going back up :).  Once underwater
    we played with  hundred pound-plastic covered concrete ball that in the water could be spun easily on one's finger.  Then we went
    about fixing a fake looking "satellite" by twisting PVC pipes back and forth.  Lots of fun!  Then when we were about to go around
    and wave to the kids outside the underwater viewing windows, my oxygen tank fell off my back!  Before we went under, I told the guy
    it felt loose, but he said "don't worry about it"  and I guess he was wrong.  No big problem though, the Scuba instructor was more
    scared than I was, and he quickly fastened it back onto the vest. Then we went around and waved through the windows at the little
    kids outside the tank, and I'm sure they must have thought I was "Sooo cooollll" because I know I would have if I was them :).  Then
    we went up, and I talked with the other divers about how it was "Sooo cooollll"  in the tank and we wish we could go back.  I was
    thinking about getting certified two years ago but I learned I was too young then (you have to be 13) but now that I'm old enough
    maybe I'll get into that.
        Well that's about it for my Space Camp report, It was tons of fun and I'd totally recommend it.  I'm not planning on going back,
    I think of going to space camp as a one time thing that you remember when you have your own kids and then tell them about it, not a
    thing you do year after year, unlike some of the kids there...  If you want me to I'll write about the simulations, which are the
    main part of camp.  There is a shuttle simulator, a mission control simulator, a SpaceHab simulator, and a ISS simulator, but I
    don't have time to write about those now, maybe tomorrow if ya like.  As they say down in Huntsville, I'll see "yall" later!
    
        Patrick
    
    
    
    
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