Ever thought, how come only the kids get to go to space camp? Huntsville, AL has a program where not only kids can find out what it’s like to train for a space mission, but parents can join in the fun too.
Exactly where is Space Camp? We visited NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, AL as a family and had a blast (see what I did there).
And exactly what is Space Camp? Here are some of the things you can expect, as well as how to prepare for your visit to space.
Out of this World Family Space Camp, Huntsville AL
The giggles came across the headset as soon as our 10-year-old space orbiter commander gave the order. “Nose near down.”
He should have said “Nose Gear Down,” but was so nervous he misread the script. The team was amused, but sympathetic and supportive. At least this commander hadn’t left our astronauts out in space on his way back to Earth as they did during our first team mission.
Welcome to Family Space Camp, Huntsville, Alabama!
Team Missions at Family Space Camp, Huntsville
The team missions are one of best parts of Family Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. During the three-day program we performed two missions, changing out responsibilities to give everyone a taste of the variety of jobs required for successful space flight.
We also learned it’s imperative the teams, mission control, orbiter, and space station, work together to bring everyone home safely. Hopefully they avoid leaving our astronauts out in space too.
During the Alpha mission we were scientists aboard the space station and had fun making bouncy balls and slime.
Bravo mission was more serious. It took me most of the mission to realize as flight director, I had to do more than read the script, I also had to monitor the flight panels. My youngest was awesome as orbiter commander and my teen a helpful pilot.
If you do the four day program there is another mission. I liked the three-day camp. Long enough to get a lot in, yet not so long that you were completely wiped out. Astronaut training is tough. All of us were asleep within five minutes of hitting the bed at night.
Astronaut Simulators at Family Space Camp, Huntsville
Our family unanimously voted the micro gravity (1/6th) moonwalk as our favorite simulator. It wasn’t graceful and walking on the moon is harder than it looks. I think weight helps. The younger kids had more trouble, those of us with a bit more weight moved faster.
I voted the G-Force spinner my least favorite. I’m still trying to get my boobs back to the front of my body after that one – if only they could have pulled them up.
During our Family SpaceCamp we learned and participated in several training exercises on simulators like the microgravity and the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). If you’ve seen the movie Gravity, the MMU is similar to what George Clooney uses in space, although much slower.
We had a lot of fun with the simulators; it was pretty cool to consider our day of training was pretty close to the real thing.
Artifacts and Astronauts at Space Camp, Huntsville
The U.S. Rocket and Space Center is an interesting backdrop for classroom study. We learned about the moon mission 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.
Our weekend opened with a presentation from real live astronaut Hoot Gibson, who flew five missions into space from 1984 to 1995.
We later learned he also took part in a major space bathroom spill where the crew determined it was the commander’s job to clean up. Apparently bathroom clean up responsibility falls to the commander because of that mission.
Yes, these are the tidbits I took away from Space Camp, whereas my husband recalled that they pour 300,000 gallons of water 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. I’m sure that says something about our personalities.
Taking Space Camp Home
In our short weekend, we made new friends with the other families in our group and had a lot of fun together.
My 10-year-old mentioned a career as an astronaut, saying it was pretty cool.
My teen wanted to know more about the Aviator Challenge which focuses on fighter pilot training.
At least now when they play games like Space Engineers, they have some appreciation for the real thing and I’m not so freaked about too much screen time. I even signed the youngest up for a class on 3D Printing Spaceships at MODA. We’ll see how he does, perhaps he’s more of an aeronautical engineer.
Family Space Camp, Huntsville, AL
Know Before You Go
Team missions, moonwalks, and astronaut talks, it is all part of a fun our family experienced during a weekend at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Space Camp in Huntsville, AL.
Family Space Camp is open to kids ages 7 and up and is a great way to bond with your future astronaut.
Aside from the celestial activities, what can you expect from a weekend bunking with the kids at space camp? Well, here are some Family Space Camp Tips to help you prepare for your otherworldly adventure.
Family Space Camp Tips: Lodging at Space Camp Huntsville
Families are housed in the Space Camp habitat, a four story building that reminded me a bit of the quarters in the movie Ender’s Game.
Floors one and two are male only. Floor three, mixed and floor four is for females. During our stay, I had to walk up a flight for the bathroom.
The rooms have no door knobs, if you want to secure your stuff, bring a padlock for the lockers in the room. Rooms include bunk beds, lockers and a desk. It’s not too roomy, but you won’t be here much anyway.
Linens and a blanket are provided by the camp, but for extra comfort, consider packing your own.
Tip: Double up on the thin camp mattresses for additional comfort. Our room had seven bunks, so the youngest had to sleep with only one mattress. He didn’t seem to mind.
Meals at Space Camp Huntsville
All meals are held in the Space Crew Galley, where the modular plastic trays took all of us over the age of 40 back to elementary school.
There’s a good variety of food, especially during breakfast and lunch. Dinner has fewer choices. Fresh fruit, bananas, oranges, and apples, are always available. Breakfast has a hot line, as well as numerous General Mills cereal options including kid favorites Fruity Pepples and Lucky Charms. I grew fond of the breakfast burrito.
Lunch and Dinner feature a culinary dish from around the world. One day is Chinese, the next Denmark. Some tasty, others not so much. Lunch also includes sandwich and pizza options. My husband suggested they also offer sandwiches at dinner, just in case the country of choice that evening isn’t a favorite.
If you have food allergies or restrictions, best to plan ahead and talk to the organizers. It may be tough to find something amid the given choices.
Tip: Disposable coffee cups make great to-go containers for a roady drink.
Schedule at Space Camp Huntsville
The schedule at Space Camp is pretty packed, you won’t have a lot of down time. We began our day with breakfast between 7:30 and 8 each morning and didn’t get back to our dorm room until after 9 each night.
There is time to explore the Space and Rocket Center as a family, but if you’d like more time, we finished by noon on Sunday and could have stayed later. Your Family Camp pass includes unlimited access to the museum during your stay.
Family Camp is either a 3 or 4-day program. I felt the 3-day was perfect. We were able to experience a lot and everyone was quite tired at the end.
Tip: Bring a small backpack to carry around your space journal and whatever else you might need for the day (water bottle, umbrella, jacket – air conditioned locations can be cool.)
Space Camp USA for Kids
In addition to Family Space Camp, Huntsville also has several varieties of Space Camp for kids. Most are five day long programs where kids learn to be an astronaut, and they will do many of the activities we did at Family Space Camp.
Besides Space Camp, kids can also participate in Space Academy (grades 6-8), or Advanced Space Academy (grades 9-12). There is an Aviation Challenge called MACH camp for various ages, and a robotics camp too. There is even a space camp for teachers and adults! The minimum US Space Camp age limit is at least 9 years old, and already attending class in the 4th grade or higher.
Our visit to Family Space Camp Huntsville, AL was provided in exchange for a review of the program, as is common in the travel industry. All opinions are my own.