U.S. Space and Rocket Center Space Camp

Huntsville, AL: To any future astronauts out there, let me say that it was not all fun and games at Space Camp. After leaving the tiny Huntsville airport, the week began with two hours of waiting in a hall so all campers on medication could turn in their pills as slowly as possible, leaving only an overzealous camper with a skateboard for entertainment.

Then came lunch, where I learned that the vegetarian rations consisted of frozen Uncrustables (solid peanut butter and jelly), occasional veggie burgers and salad. Although these meals were not the most appetizing, I heard many a horror story about how past campers had become vegetarians after eating mystery meat.

Soon I got to know our dorm. The older kids were assigned to Hab1, an interesting/ugly futuristic building that was overly air-conditioned and featured titles like “waste management” for bathrooms. In a tiny room, I and six other girls were to coexist peacefully for six days. I arrived too late to claim a coveted lower bunk and so I battled with a metal ladder to get to my top bunk, conveniently near the moldy ceiling. I kept thanking myself for bringing my own pillow.

Tired of hearing complaints? I’ll skip to the fun part – the space missions! We were issued flight suits and ordered to wear them during mock missions, which came after days of sitting through briefings on solar physiology and underwater space survival and such.

The best mission was six hours, where I literally suffered from heat exhaustion because I had to wear an orange spacesuit over my flight suit and not-so-literally because, among other medical anomalies we “suffered” from, I had heat exhaustion, decompression sickness, sudden periods of deafness, a broken arm and nearly died several times from a fire and air leak respectively in the orbiter and my own faulty piloting. Surprisingly, my teammates and I actually landed the orbiter in (mostly) one piece.

So did my once-in-a-lifetime experience at space camp prepare me for a career as an astroperson? Nah, I gave up that ambition. But it did teach me to value peanut butter and jelly in sandwich form more than I thought possible.