Alan Shepard was the first man to obit around the Earth. He was also the first man to head up in space after wetting his pants. I’m sure he’s proud of the first accomplishment and would gladly forget the second, but as with earthly travel, not all space travel stories are glamorous, as we learned at Family Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, ALA.
Artifacts and Astronauts
The U.S. Rocket and Space Center is an interesting backdrop to study the history of space, and the funny side stories. Outside are various rockets on display, including Pathfinder, the model rocket for the Shuttle program. Inside is a full-sized Saturn V rocket. We learned about the moon mission from our crew trainer Daralynn while gathered around the orbiter used to bring the Apollo 11 crew back to Earth, and inquired about engineering of the Saturn V Rocket while looking up at the actual ship. That tidbit about Alan Shepard came up in a presentation on the different types of rocket fuel. We even met real astronauts Hoot Gibson and Dr. Don Thomas. It was some interesting show and tell, suited more toward older kids, which is why Family Space Camp is for kids over the age of seven. Our group had two 14-year-olds, but most of the kids were between 7 and 12. That said, our teen had fun and ended up paling around with his Dad, which was nice to see.
As you might expect, the kids favorite part of the weekend was the hands-on astronaut training at Family Space Camp. We laughed at each other trying to space walk in the microgravity chair, took pictures and video in the MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit) and coached each other during the team missions. My 10-year-old was quite nervous to serve as orbiter commander. His dad and I enjoyed watching him from our post in mission control as he navigated a successful mission with a little help from his 14-year-old brother, the pilot.
Another kid favorite was the rocket launch. Our first night it poured rain, but thankfully the weather cleared when it was time to set off the rockets. Both boys were excited to see them ignite, then burst and watch float to the ground.
One Fact You Learned at Space Camp
I asked the boys to give me one cool fact from Family Space Camp. It’s interesting what they said and I think it tells a bit about them. My husband’s is technical, a true fact. The teen’s is about food and the 10 year-old’s is quite dramatic. Mine was the Alan Shepard tidbit – more about everyday life in space.
- 300,000 gallons of water is poured under the space shuttle right before launch to dissipate the sound and it’s just enough to keep it from breaking apart from sound vibrations. – Dad
- Astronauts don’t have to eat terrible dried meals in space anymore. They actually have good food. – 14 year-old
- The shock of a launch can damage or kill anyone within a three and a half mile radius. – 10 year-old
Planning a trip to Family Space Camp? Here are some things to Know Before You Go to Family Space Camp.