Space Camp Instead of the Beach

Copyright: © Martin Lux

While their contemporaries enjoy vacation, Teresa and Philipp will be facing new challenges. The 17 year old school student and 19 year old secondary school graduate, respectively,  from Aachen, were chosen for a one week stay at the Space Camp in Huntsville, Texas.The trip to the USA and the stay are financed by the German Research Center for Aeronautics and Space (DLR), which was assisted by in the ACCESS e.V. affiliated institute in choosing suitable students in Aachen.


The space camp is supported by NASA and is completely reserved for international guests from July 21 to 29. During the week, youth from all over the world will complete trainings similar to those astronauts complete before a trip into space.

Teresa and Philipp are reporting from the USA on their experiences here.


The Last Stage: Tersa and Philipp Meet a Real Astronaut

The last day started with us packing our bags and then having breakfast. We then had time to exchange our addresses, phone numbers, and facebook names with the other groups. Afterwards was the space ball. It was a quiz that tested how much we learned this week. Teams had to play against each other and collect points for their own teams.

Closing Celebration and Award Ceremony

The closing celebration then started, which is called graduation in the USA. Individual teams were called up to the stage and everyone got to shake the hand of astronaut Robert Hut Gibson. Additionally, medals for particular merits were awarded, for example the overall winner of the egg rocket competition, the space ball, and other competitions. The medal for the individual who best represented the spirit of space exploration and teamwork went to the Australian in our group. We unfortunately then had to say good bye to everyone.

A Last City Tour and Then Back Home

We first spent the night in a hotel, since our flight was not till the next day. We used the time to tour around Huntsville. Overall the space camp was a great experience and we would gladly do it again!


Stage 5: Risky Maneuvers and Lots of Excitement

The day directly began with a highlight, the moonwalk simulator. You can experience five sixths less gravity on the moon in this simular, which leads to strange movements and unexpected leaps into the air.

At Dizzy Heights

After we had some time try out the rollercoaster simulator and Spache Shot one more time. We then went to the Pamper Pole, a 50 foot high wood pole, which you have to climb up and get on the wobbly top, turn around, and jump down to a rope. It was really hot again, but was a quite a bit of fun.

The Pitfalls of a Space Mission

After lunch we heard a presentation about the Apollo mission before we started our final mission. In the simulation there were a lot of illnesses, problems, and many deaths. Ground control was very busy with allergies, tornadoes, and an electricity problem. There were also complications in space, such as a sun eruption that killed the entire ISS team.

Additionally, the shuttle broke when docking on the station, which also killed both crews. If whoever was responsible for the death did something embarassing, such as dancing in front of the cafeteria, the corpse would be brought back to life. Thus, we though that we would succeed, despite a few funerals. However apparently when the shuttle landed on earth, the cargo compartment stayed open, which made the whole mission fail.

The Rocket Takes Off and a Tree!

We were finally able to light our selfmade rockets after dinner. One of the rockets did not manage to open the parachute, causing the rocket to be destroyed. The other parachute worked well, but due to the great height, the egg broke nevertheless. Our rocket lit well and the parachute functioned. Unfortunately it drifted into a tree. Nevertheless we won the challenge, because the rocket landed safely and we did not exceed our budget.

A Look at the Starry Night to Conclude

We later listened to a presentation on the shuttle program, played an increase in production game, and looked at the sky through a telescope. The last day was definitely the most exciting and the best. Tomorrow we will finally have our graudation and will get our certificate and space camp wings.


Stage 4: The Final Mission Is Getting Closer

Today also began with two mission trainings. Our three hour mission will be tomorrow evening and we feel somewhat prepared.

Up and Away With 38 Degrees

We then looked forward to climbing on the 50 foot high climbing wall in the neighboring camp. This joy very quickly disappeared, since even climbing is not fun in 38 degree weather with beating sun. After an hour in the sun we could neither shower nor change due to our strict schedule.

Afterwards we had lunch an we watched the movie Space Junk in the Imax 3D movie theater. It mainly deals with the problems, space trash brings, which was very graphic due to the 3D technology.

Permitted: Teresa, Head of Ground Control, and Philipp, Commander of the ISS

Next we decided who would take up which position in the final mission. Philipp will be on the ISS, conduct experiments, and after the shuttle has docked, flight and land the maschine back as the commander. Teresa will stay on the ground with Mission Control and communicate between the shuttle and ground control, as well as be the head of the station.

Intergalactic, This Rollercoaster

We later visited two simulators. One of which presented an intergalactic rollercoaster. The other, called gforce, creates 4G through spinning. This means: One experiences four times one's body weight.

After dinner, we went to the Davidson Center, a museum which is also on the grounds, and in which the Saturn V is on display. After an experiment and a presentation, which will help us with the mission tomorrow, we went to bed.


Stage 3: The Egg Rocket Flies Safely

Training for the missions continued today. We both could try out the positions on the International Space Station. They were interesting, but we will not choose those for the final mission.

We then finished putting together our egg rocket and tested it. It passed both the drop test and the launch test. For this reason, we feel well prepared for the rocket competition.

Strict Schedule and A Lot of New Knowledge

After lunch we conducted our first real missions, which did not go so well at first. One must follow a strict schedule, whereby delays often arise that can lead to big problems. We later learned something about the history of space travel, which was very easy to visualize, thanks to the help of the museum on the space camp grounds.

After dinner our team was divided up into pilots and mission specialists. We, as pilots, were allowed to visit the neighboring Camp Aviation Challenge. We first went in the centrifuge, where one has to bear 3.2g - a true experience.

Athletically Close Competition

Afterwards we competed in an aerial fight, in which we first had to practice starting and landing in flight simulators and could then shoot at each other. The whole day was a lot of fun. However, the weather, which is warm and humid, combined with the air conditioning, which makes for extremely cold rooms, is a bit exhausting.


Stage 2: From Flying Eggs and Good Food

After breakfast, the second day started off with building model rockets. We were separated into teams. Each team was responsible for shooting an egg in a rocket three meters into the air and to have it safely land. Afterwards there were more presentations on various topics.

Preparation for the Final Mission

The presentations prepare us for the final mission. The training for this also began today. Each person in a team, made up of fourteen individuals, was given a roll, for example, commander, pilot, mission specialist of a shuttle, or various responsibilities at ground control. We will have a total of four training times, each lasting hour, in order to try out different positions and to choose one for the mission.

Highlight of the Day - Upside Down and Round and Round

The highlight of the day was definitely the multi access trainer, a simular, in which one is flung around in all directions around axes.

In the evening we had a few team building games that were not very exciting.

Overall, the second day was more exciting than the first and we are looking forward to the coming units.

Intercultural Exchange

The food positively surprised us, since today it was salad and lasagne. We are getting to know the international students better and are learning a lot about each other's countries and people.


Stage 1: Twenty Hour Trip to Weightlessness

After having been underway for twenty hours, we have finally arrived at the Space Camp. To our surprise, the opening celebration was only an hour after our arrival, causing us to improvise our Germany presentation.

Survival Training and Space Overall

Afterwards we went to bed at ten, tired with jet lag. Our first day started with a typical, unhealthy, American breakfast, after which we directly began the water activity. This included rafting on a lake, which was a lot of fun.

Then we ate lunch, listened to a few presentations, and then finally received our space overalls. Additionally we visited the space shot, which simulates weightlessness and was a lot of fun. Altogether we got a few impressions of America with its security.

International Get-Together

We have also made new acquaintances, since students are there from all fifty states, as well as eleven other countries, including Norways, New Zealand, Australia, England, and Austria. We look forward to the coming week, during which the flight training will finally start.