Day 1 at Space Camp

All of the Utahn astronauts awoke this morning with a pep in their step and were ready for action! After breakfast, all of the Von Lions team walked through the main building and Aaron’s attention was snagged by a tank containing a gecko. After a few moments of searching, Aaron’s curiosity was satiated by finding the gecko.


David’s morning started as he filled the role of Guidance Navigation and Control specialist in Mission Control for the staff’s mission. Using the screen’s information, can you find the altitude, current velocity and how much time is remaining until the next “burn” on the engines? These questions, and many more (whew, lots of papers, files and folders to sift through!) were answered to provide a safe, smooth and successful mission for the various Deaf educators/staff at Space Camp this week!










For the Von Lions’ alpha (first) mission, Ronnald is the Extravehicular Activity (EVA) specialist. His role in the mission is to communicate with the 2 mission specialists as they survey, tweak and fix the exterior of the shuttle and various satellites. Ronnald did a great job learning all of the communication abbreviations and how to communicate with the mission specialists as they work through each situation that arises during the mission.



During the Alpha mission, Aaron’s position is Mission Scientist in the International Space Station (ISS). He learned about the different panels within the satellite, how the nodes connect the satellite (and are the thickest portion of the satellite) and how he’ll conduct experiments in his ISS during the mission!

Did you know? In the International Space Station, astronauts have 2.5 hours of required exercise everyday?!

Also while in the ISS, Aaron learned about experiments in space. Typically, astronauts spend 6 months at the ISS, but NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (also called “Roscosmos”) are currently preparing an astronaut (NASA) and a cosmonaut (Russian Federal Space Agency) to spend a full year in space! Because of the lack of gravity, cells are perfectly round, rather than oval/oblong like on earth (due to gravity). Due to this property, astronauts can see cells much more clearly and NASA scientists are hopeful that the work these astronauts are doing with cancer cells, plants and animal cells and even viruses, will lead to innovative and effective successes!



For the Alpha mission, Walker and Meseret got placed in positions that they’ll get to do some serious teamwork. As Mission Specialist 1 & 2, Walker and Meseret will work on the exterior of the shuttle, fix the satellite and communicate their results back to Mission Control, all while “floating” in space!

After their quick debriefing, Walker got positioned in the shuttle’s arm, to move to the correct position and repair a broken instrument on the satellite. This arm, at Space Camp, is a 37 feet steel beam controlled by a powerful hydraulic system, whereas on a NASA shuttle, the arm is graphite and is 50 feet long. The NASA ARM (funded by Canada and aptly named the Canada Arm) is graphite and within earth’s gravity, it wouldn’t be able to support it’s own weight. In space, the Canada arm can support itself, as well as machinery, and an astronaut’s weight! A NASA’s shuttle controls the arm using an elaborate electrical system (instead of hydraulics) because of the unknown dynamics of fluids in space.








After Walker completed his work on the satellite, he reported his results, via Meseret, to Mission Control. Walker was given the a-ok to finish his portion of their Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and it was then Meseret’s turn to jump into the action. Meseret’s duty was to repair a broken light on the exterior of the shuttle. Meseret relayed her results to Mission Control via Walker and they then returned to the cockpit of the orbiter and joined the rest of their crew. David safely watched and photographed from a nearby shuttle.










After a delicious lunch, the rain caused the Area 51 exercises to be moved indoor. The Von Lions rose to the challenge and after introducing themselves to the leader of their activity, they divided into 2 teams. Meseret, Ronnald and Walker ended up on one team and Aaron was on the other, but BOTH teams did amazingly well with the challenges with which they were presented.

Meseret, Ronnald and Walker’s team was given the task to cross a “toxic pit”, using only each other, a few cinder blocks and planks of wood. After a short brainstorming session, they devised a plan to overcome the toxic hurdle and began carrying out their plan. Meseret took the lead, was the first to enter the toxic area and did a great job laying the planks for her teams to cross, while also providing advice on future complications and how certain boards were warped and that her teammates should be careful while crossing them. Part way through their effort, two students lost their balance and stepped into the “toxic pit”, rendering their legs “useless” (the two legs were then tied together) and they had to continue the remainder of the activity as a 3-legged team player.











Aaron’s team for Area 51 also sailed through their challenge, aptly named “Toxic Dump” in which they must dump the “toxic” balls into a bucket, only after carefully picking them up, moving them and aligning them with the proper “dump” receptacle. Aaron took on the brave role of monitoring the balls closely, providing support via communication and his tactile prowess in handling the buckets which carried the “toxic” balls.

20140428-125347.jpgBoth teams were successful and afterwards discussed the importance of communication, positivity and support in not only these “low ropes” activities, but in their missions while at Space Camp, and in life.


Wow, it’s already time for training for a Bravo (second) mission?! For the Bravo mission, new roles were assigned and the Utahn astronauts again got some great positions!

Walker – Science Communication Specialist – He’ll talk to the International Space Station and check on their experiments.

Aaron– Mission Specialist 1 – He’ll be in the arm on the exterior of shuttle and will work to repair an instrument bay.

Meseret– Electric Generation Illumination and Lighting Specialist – She’ll be focused on the electronics of the shuttle from launch to landing.

Ronnald – Mission Scientist – He’ll work in the ISS examining various aspects of the affect of zero gravity on humans, plants and chemicals.




Aaron received his summary of duties, with the project he’d be working on hanging above his head.







When the NASA worker explained that he’d be in the arm of the shuttle and that HE would be the one controlling it, he was elated!


The arm, in eager anticipation of Aaron.                                            Aaron’s priceless face when the control was turned over to him.

20140428-140438.jpg                 20140428-140456.jpg









20140428-140512.jpgAfter the Bravo mission training was finished, it was time for a quick group photo before an introduction to land survival. As you can see, the Von Lions have a few characters within the group.

20140428-224717.jpgDuring land survival training, the astronauts essentially shift roles into the life of a fighter pilot. As a hybrid program this year, the Deaf students will not only engage in rocket-centric, lunar modules and ablative shielding activities, they’ll also learn how to track another plane, locate a landing strip, or survive a crash in enemy territory, with a strong survival mindset.


Speaking of mental toughness, the tenacity, patience and maturity that the Von Lions tackled the next challenge thrown at them (Huntsville’s tornados) was impressive. During dinner, the tornado alarm sounded and a tornado warning went into effect. We all moved to the safety shelter and patiently waited for about 30 minutes for the “all clear” announcement to be made. Then the astronauts returned to dinner to attempt to finish their meals when the alarm again disrupted their eating time. After moving again to the safe area, the astronauts, their teammates and other teams’ members huddled for over an hour, all patiently waiting, while the rain fell, the winds whipped, and the sky’s kaleidoscope of dark hues made many adults nervous and toppled trees in neighboring cities. There’s no doubt that the Von Lions trumped the storm and it was truly impressive to see them create games, engage in conversation, or doodle while the storm roared through.

20140428-224733.jpgAs a final impressive feat for the day, the Von Lions rallied their energy reserves and constructed rockets after the volley of tornado warnings. While definitely enjoying their time, the medium-sized rockets that they built were well constructed and required a lot of precise building, especially difficult after a long day!




20140428-224929.jpgDay #1 at Space Camp has ended, but the astronauts are eager to again greet the sun and begin new roles, new lessons and apply the knowledge that they’ve so masterfully developed throughout their years, to achieve “impossible” things tomorrow.


8 thoughts on “Day 1 at Space Camp

  1. Looks like you are having a great time!! Such great pictures and the blog is awesome!! David, I never knew you were such a great writer. So much fun!

    • I’m glad people are reading the blog! I’ve been doing my best to take tons of pictures and to post them as quickly as I can!

      I’ve been posting to JMS’ Parent Teacher Association Facebook page as well.

      Keep checking back, we’ve already done lots of exciting things and if the weather cooperates, we’ll be scuba diving later today!

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