It has been said, “Don’t say the sky’s the limit, when there are footprints on the moon.” 13-year-old Russell Bagley isn’t setting any limitations when it comes to learning about anything, especially space. He recently attended Space Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville Alabama.
Bagley, an Amery Middle School student, found an ad for the camp in a technology magazine. He and his parents jumped on the website to learn more about it. They eventually make the trek, driving three days to the camp, stopping at places of interest along the way.
The weeklong educational program promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), while training students and with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and problem solving.
Sometimes being so far away from home can be difficult but Bagley said, “I did not get home sick at all because I was busy all day. Each day I would do activities such as, practicing for my missions, learning what it is like in space, and going on simulations from 6am to 11pm.”
The program is specifically designed for trainees who have a passion for space exploration. Bagley spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated space mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon or Mars.
The crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk. Bagley and crew returned to earth in time to graduate with honors.
“I have always thought about space exploration, but I never really thought about learning all the stuff they taught me at the camp. I learned a lot about the rockets and history,” said Bagley. He shared favorite part of Space Camp was being the GNC in the mission control room talking about the weather when launching and landing.
Bagley said, “The most exciting thing I learned there is that in a couple years Elon Musk will send someone to Mars.”
Space Camp operates year-round in Huntsville, and uses astronaut-training techniques to engage trainees in real-world applications of STEM subjects. Students sleep in quarters designed to resemble the ISS and train in simulators like those used by NASA.
More than 850,000 trainees have graduated from a Space Camp program since its inception in Huntsville in 1982, including European Space Agency astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA astronauts Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Dr. Kate Rubins, Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Christina Koch, who is serving onboard the International Space Station. Children and teachers from all 50 states and almost 150 international locations have attended a Space Camp program. “There were over 1,000 kids ages 12-13 and many of them came for Midwest and West coast,” Bagley said.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is home to Space Camp and Aviation Challenge, the Apollo 16 capsule, the National Historic Landmark Saturn V rocket and world-class traveling exhibits. USSRC is the Official Visitor Center for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and a showcase for national defense technologies developed at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal.
Although he greatly enjoyed his time at Space Camp he doesn’t believe he will someday make a career out of it. Bagley said, “I would like to pursue a career in marine biology because people know more about space than our own oceans. He also shared, “If someone is interested in space exploration, I would tell them to research camps and other opportunities to learn about space.
To learn more about the programs at the USSRC, go to www.rocketcenter.com.