To infinity and beyond

There were no barriers to learning for four gifted St Stephen’s School students who spent two weeks travelling to some of the world’s best space centres as part of the Space Camp USA program last month.

The trip was “out of this world”, according to the Year 9 students, two from both the Carramar and Duncraig campuses, who suited up in specialist space gear to experience zero-gravity – an opportunity many of us will never get in our lifetime.

“The moonwalking simulator [imitated] moon-like gravity. It felt weird, it felt like you were floating!” Duncraig student Noah Kane said.

Students toured the Californian Science Centre in Los Angeles and Alabama’s US Space and Rocket Centre, getting up close with some of the most high-tech space equipment that has orbited our solar system.

“It was really fun seeing the things that had actually been in space… we saw the Space Shuttle Endeavour in real life!” Duncraig student Lauren Bates said.

While giving students an up-close-and-personal view into the world of space, the Camp also aimed to build students’ STEM, problem-solving and teamwork skills through International Space Station mission simulations.

“[There were] many different simulations where we would either be an astronaut hanging from a harness, controlling a replica Canadarm [a series of robotic arms] or be on ship controlling it as the pilot or commander,” Carramar student Vivek Desai said.

“We did simulations of what it was like to be a scientist. I learnt how hard it was to fly a plane – even if it was a fake plane! “Lauren said.

Highlights differed among the students – from the moonwalking simulator, a scuba diving class and a trip to Disneyland – the four agreed the most important part of the trip was making new friends.

“The highlight was the friends I made and hanging out with them,” Carramar student Jiyona Jipson said.

“You’re with the same people for 11 days straight so you’re obviously going to form good friendships with them, so when I left I was really upset!” Lauren said.

If the tours and missions weren’t enough, the four budding astronauts were left inspired after a question-and-answer Skype session with engineer and NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff.

“I’ve had the dream of being an astronaut but now coming back, I want to join something in aerospace or actually be an astronaut,” Jiyona said.

“There’s a Space Camp Hall of Fame – it’s all the people who were in Space Camp when they were little and now they’re astronauts.”

When asked if her face will be up there one day, Jiyona said “I hope so!”.

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