by Sam Sherman
During the May monthly meeting, member Ira Polans spoke about his travels to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I smiled as he shared details about their wonderful exhibits and tours, including the bus tour of the NASA complex a short ride away. I smiled because not only is that location home to the museum, but it is also home to Space Camp, an incredible place where I spent a week for three consecutive summers. If not for COVID-19, it might have been four! They do have programs for adults and families, though, so I sincerely hope to return one day as a camper.
Since Mr. Polans already spoke to eloquently about the complex itself, I wanted to share a little bit about my experiences with Space Camp itself. The first time I went, I was a rising sixth grader. It was my very first time away from home, and I was nervous and did not know what to expect. I did not need to worry! Camp kept us busy all day long, between flight simulations, learning the various Mission Control positions, including Flight Control, CAPCOM, EECOM, and so many other roles! I even had the experience of trying to repair a satellite upside down in a zero-gravity simulator. And then there was the multi-axis trainer and all of my new friends from around the world. One year, I roomed with several kids my age from Argentina. Their English wasn’t too strong, and my Spanish was non-existent at that time so we communicated in the one language we shared—soccer. I could go on and on. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go—and to go multiple times.
Me and Hoot Gibson:
That appreciation got me thinking, though. I am fortunate that my parents not only paid my camp tuition but incurred the cost to travel to Huntsville and to stay the week three times. Many of my peers do not have that same opportunity. As a student in the Pennsbury School District, economic diversity among the students is both a strength and a challenge in our community. After my third summer there, I decided that I wanted to do what I could to make sure that other kids could have the same opportunity to attend Space Camp that I did. In 2018, I founded S.P.A.C.E.—Scholarships for the Promotion of Astronomy through Camp and Education. We are a Pennsylvania Nonprofit organization, with federal 501(c)(3) status still pending. My goal was to send even just one student who would not otherwise be able to attend Space Camp, though we have also looked to finance other local opportunities for students interested in space and astronomy as well. The project was put on hold for a few years—first because I was ill for an extended period of time, and later because of COVID-19. I am extremely proud, however, that the organization is now up, funded to the point of being able to finance at least one student to Space Camp, and open for applications for the Summer of 2022.
If you know of a student who may qualify, please encourage them to apply. Though my goal was, initially, limited to the Pennsbury population our charter is broad enough to extend the opportunity to other students as well. I will be fundraising for the remainder of the application period, and will make available as many opportunities as we can to share this opportunity with as many students as possible. Sending one student would be a dream come true; sending more than one student would be truly amazing. Information about S.P.A.C.E., the application process, and how to donate can be found at http://www.spacecampscholarship.com. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments about the program to email@example.com.