Space Camp 2016


After some 35 hours on the move we finally arrived at the Space Camp in Huntsville late on Saturday night. Everyone was tired, but cheerful and looking forward to a quick snack and a good sleep. While the teachers - aka 'chaperones' - luxuriated at the Marriott, the campers bunked in the huge dorms.

Sunday was an orientation day when we were put into our groups ready for the gruelling week ahead. They were up early for breakfast and then a low-key morning looking through the space camp rocket park and trying out a few of the rides. One of the teachers even displayed his nerves of steel on the tower of terror! After lunch it was time for the orientation session and assignment to teams and activities.

Monday started a packed week of fun and hard work. We had lessons in space flight, rocket design and robotics together with scuba diving, team building, moon-walking, wall-climbing and falling off a pole! There were stacks of different simulated missions where we 'landed' a space shuttle and undertook EVAs on the ISS among others. The food was a bit ordinary but there was heaps of it. Occasionally, the teachers visited us to take photos and to watch us suffer!

After we graduated on Friday we took a bus to Birmingham and, after a visit to the Human Rights Institute, we flew to Orlando, Florida.

On Saturday, we headed off early to the Kennedy Space Centre from where all the major American missions, including the Apollo moon-shots and the Shuttles were launched. A highlight was a close-up look at Atlantis which last flew in 2011. We were also lucky to have lunch with a genuine astronaut followed by a tour of the launch facilities.

On Sunday we did some indoor skydiving. After getting into a flight suit, goggles and helmet, we entertained each other with rather funny displays of 'sky-falling'. The group then headed off to Boggy Creek for an air-boat ride across the Everglades, during which we spotted a few alligators and other assorted wildlife. The brave ones then were able to give a 3-year old croc a little pat on the back for not trying to bite them!

On Monday, Universal Studios certainly lived up to the hype. Each little 'city' was like stepping into a movie set. The rides were brilliant - delightfully stomach-churning and sweat-inducing - and well worth the wait in line. Words simply do no justice to the overwhelming deluge of sights and sounds bombarding you at this place. Top rides included Harry Potter's Forbidden Journey, the Minions, Spiderman, Jurassic Park and Dragon Challenge.

One of the highlights of our flight from Orlando to San Francisco was seeing snow for the first time in Denver. Some of the kids wanted to run out onto the runways to make a snowman!

San Francisco was great. After a visit to Alcatraz, we took a double-decker bus tour and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge - and retrieved a lost cap. Other activities in SF included the Exploratorium - SciTech on steroids! - and visits to the National Ignition Facility, Intel and the Computer Museum - where we had to drag Mr Joosten out when it was time to leave.

To sum up, the Space Camp Tour was one of the best trips you could ever hope to do. The sights and sounds were fantastic; there were interesting and challenging activities; lots of laughs - oh - and a bit of shopping, too.

John Joosten - Tour Guide and Director of IT