Day 5 – Friday

Wow! Graduation day already!

Both teams gathered under the Pathfinder rocket this morning to hear some parting words from the director of Space Camp and their team leaders. 

The graduation ceremony started with the playing/signing of the national anthem.     

Each graduating astronaut received a certificate and encouraging words as they return to their home states.   Here, Team Von Lions are affixed upon the stage, ready to graduate.  Way to go, Amber and Brenda! Congratulations, Alex! Whoa, whoa, whoa! Please return to the stage, Team Von Lions, you’re the Most Outstanding Team of the week! 

 Annnnnd, not to be outdone, the Jolly Goddards secured the Outstanding Rocketry award, beating all of the other teams in brainstorming, designing, engineering and launching the best rockets of the week.    

The heartfelt goodbyes and “we’ll stay in touch via Facebook” graced the grounds of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.  





Day 3 – Wednesday

Steven Forney honored us this morning with a presentation on the drones that he builds and programs. Steven is a Deaf technician that is a Rochester Institute of Technology graduate who has loved his experience with computer programming, 3-D printing, and building and testing his drones. His motto is “build it, fly it, crash it, rebuild it” which is a good lesson for us all, especially relevant for all things science. When proceeding through scientific tests, Steven inspired students to try their best, but also be alright with failures and tweaks throughout the process, as those will ultimately lead to a better final result.

Victoria Garcia is a Deaf, systems engineer who works for NASA. She gave a riveting presentation about her work with NASA, elements of communication that she implements every day, and the amazing work she’s done with the Orion capsule.

Victoria explained the effects of slosh dynamics which means paying attention to liquids that are utilized by a rocket, but can have an effect on the overall dynamics of rocket propulsion. Check out this great article for more information on slosh dynamics. Victoria also explained a rocket’s pogo dynamics, which is the vertical push and pull of the rocket as it launches and moves through our atmosphere and into space, which also is a large component of aerodynamic heating which is why rockets’ body must be efficient and aerodynamic.Itzel and I had the honor of being interviewed by Huntsville’s local news station, WHNT, and provided insight into the brilliant “classroom” that Space Camp provides, as well as the amazing linguistic components that the students experience. The story will be on the local news this evening.

The Von Lions team had their first mission today. As they prepped and got excited to begin, our 3 Von Lions astronauts quickly posed for a picture. In this mission, Itzel headed to the orbiter’s cockpit and helped with guiding the shuttle through space.AC and Khadija did a stellar job in mission control, communicating and directing the goings-on for the mission and keeping everyone calm.  While the Von Lions had their first mission, the Jolly Goddards proceeded to learn about the ISS and typical shuttle’s Environment Control and Life Support System (ECLSS). This system is tasked with removing excess waste, and recycling use-able waste. The students needed to create a filter that would neutralize a liquid’s pH, color and turbidity.

Did you know? Excess waste must be dumped while in the sun or it’d freeze to the side of the shuttle.

After the Von Lions finished their Alpha mission (successfully!) the Jolly Goddards took to Mission Control, the ISS and the orbiter to prove themselves in their Alpha Mission.      Alex safely returning from his Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) successfully repairing a damaged light fixture on the exterior of the shuttle.“Hi Mom (and all of USDB), I’ve safely returned from my EVA and it was GREAT!”  In their Bravo mission (that’s right, 2 missions in one day!) the Von Lions, after replenishing their energy with some lunch, carried out their responsibilities in proper form. Itzel and Khadija made rubber bouncy balls as their experiment in the ISS, just like ISS astronauts carry out experiments during their 6 month stays in the ISS.  AC communicated splendidly with the pilot as the commander and successfully guided the shuttle and its crew through a tough mission with many anomalies.As the Von Lions trudged through their difficult Bravo mission, the Jolly Goddards went to the Pamper pole which is a telephone with large metal staples, soaring to a peak height of 32 ft. After reaching the top, the Jolly Goddard members were asked to perch themselves atop the pole, turn around and jump to tap a nearby hanging rope.



  After both groups finished the Pamper Pole, the Jolly Goddards launched their rockets. It was a blast! 

After their rocket launch, the Jolly Goddards ate some dinner and headed to Aviation Challenge to continue their training as fighter pilots, and to prepare for their big “dogfight” tournament tomorrow. The students will be competing for a special award tomorrow… of luck to our USDB astronauts!



Day 2 – Tuesday

Getting right to it, our Tuesday begins with the Jolly Goddard team working on their 2nd (Bravo) mission. For their Bravo mission, Alex will be working in the International Space Station, Brenda will be working in Mission Control and Amber will be working as Mission Specialist 1, fixing lights on the exterior of the shuttle, and doing satellite repair.

Whew! Lots of switches to learn and remember for the commander, pilot and mission specialists within the orbiter20140501-120829.jpg




While the Jolly Goddards worked on their Bravo Mission, the Von Lions built their rockets that they’ll launch later this week.

Following their rocket construction, the Von Lions began training for their third (Charlie) Mission. In this mission, AC is the pilot and will be in charge of flying and controlling the orbiter while in space. He’ll also be responsible for landing it after the mission (not an easy task!).

Khadija will be working from the Canadarm and fixing the instrument bays to repair a damaged light on the exterior of the shuttle.The real Canadarm is actually weaker than the Canadarm that Khadija is working on and couldn’t lift its own weight if it was on earth.   

Alex and the rest of the Jolly Goddards began their fuel cell activity and learned how electricity and power are generated and used on the ISS. Through a vast solar array, and the power of hydrolysis, the ISS is powered in many ways. Alex and his team worked on conducting electricity through aluminum foil in salt water, to build a fuel cell that would hold a few volts of electricity.

  Electrolysis with water, Epsom salt and aluminum foil demonstrates the same components used for the fuel cells on the ISS. On another power-related note, did you know that the ISS has a robot that can fix many nominal items on the exterior of the station named Dextre? 287299main_dextre_iss017_big_full

Watching Amber’s satellite work from Mission Control. 

Amber cruising around in space, en route to fix an exterior light on the shuttle.   

Building a new space suit for the astronauts to use that is waterproof, puncture-proof and easy to get off and on. The team was divided into the age old competition; girls vs. boys.


The first test was the waterproof test, to see how the suit held up when submerged in water.

The second test was the heat and radiation test in which the suits were tested for amount of radiation received, and the temperature sensitivity of the suit.

The next test was to see if the suit could easily be put on and taken off of an astronaut (in this case, an apple).

The final test was the puncture test…….the boys were a bit nervous.

Tonight was the Jolly Goddards’ chance to try scuba diving. Here, Brenda makes the swim across the dive tank to begin her training.  DCIM103GOPRO


While the Jolly Goddards enjoyed scuba diving, the Von Lions spent some time doing team building activities like rock climbing, as well as learning how to control and fly the flight simulators. 


Closing the evening with a shot of the Pathfinder in the center of the Space Camp campus.

Day 1 – Monday

Good morrrrrrrrning, Space camp!!

After some breakfast, the Von Lions crew sat down to get information regarding their positions for their Alpha mission, AND learned some Australian sign language!


For the Von Lions’ Alpha mission, Itzel is the pilot and will be in the orbiter flying the shuttle. AC will hold down 3 positions for this mission! He will be CAPCOM which is the main line of communication for those in space. CAPCOM remains in Mission Control, is typically an ex-astronaut (and knows the stress of space) and is in charge of “keeping the peace” in Mission Control. AC will also be the Flight Director, who is the head honcho around Mission Control. AC’s final role is EGIL (electrical guidance illumination leader) that controls the electrical components of the spacecraft. Khadija will also have 3 jobs, her first is as the FDO (flight dynamics officer) which is in charge of propulsion, fuel/power (and the ultimate duty to NOT make the rocket explode), GNC (Guidance navigation control) making sure the rocket hits its “windows” leaving/re-entering the atmosphere, and finally EECOM (environmental emergency conditions) which ensures the proper weather conditions before and during the launch.

One of the first components of a mission that the Von Lions learned was Mission Elapsed Time (MET)  which shows the time from launch, whether it be before launch (- time) or after the launch has happened (+ time).

This picture shows the various dynamics and information for a mission 44:33 after its initial launch.

Whew! We’ve been busy! Anyone need a bathroom break?

Itzel learning the control panel to be a great pilot! The Jolly Goddards are working on interplanetary travel, improving teamwork and communication, and not “floating away” when transitioning between planets. 

Maui to Kauai- another challenge to develop the Jolly Goddards’ creative thinking schemes, communication and cooperation. They were tasked with the job of switching five of their team members from island 1 to island 2, as well as five members from island 2 to island 1.

  Brenda helped during the debriefing answering questions about lessons learned, challenges overcome and how important communication is for team efficiency.

Team Von Lions has arrived to Area 51 and is ready for some aliens and team building.

The Von Lions are being debriefed on their first challenge, Tubular Trouble, in which the Von Lions must escape from jail.

“Escaping from jail” with lots of communication, teamwork…….and laughter.

Team Jolly Goddards is now training for their Alpha Mission. Brenda is a mission scientist doing “research” in the International Space Station, Alex is doing satellite repair as Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) 2, working from the Canadarm and Amber will be in Misssion Control helping with communication throughout this mission.

         The Jolly Goddards are building their own rockets to launch later this week!

 For their Bravo mission, Khadija and Itzel will be working together in the ISS.

AC is the commander for the Von Lions’ mission, hopefully he learns the buttons well.

 After a quick dinner, the Von Lions headed to the ~25 foot diameter dive tank, all very excited to try the nearly “zero gravity” environment that scuba provides for astronaut training.




 Itzel is the first student I’ve seen successfully launch an underwater missile 

AC has a message to all the GREAT teachers at USDB

  They were exhausted, but had a blast!

Away we go!

USDB is on its way! After our students’ awesome parents dropped them off, we proceeded through security and made our way to our gate. After the students patiently (kind of) waited, we boarded our plane.

For Alex and Amber, it was their first time flying, but all of the students thoroughly enjoyed gawking out the windows and being in/above the clouds.

We’ve officially arrived to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. The students are eager to get checked in, see their rooms and get some dinner.

The students’ “habitats” for the week!

 Our USDB astronauts joined their groups (Von Lions-Khadija, AC Itzel, Jolly Goddards-Alex, Brenda, Amber) and concluded their first night with information about leaving the atmosphere, re-entry and the geometry of aerodynamic skip.

A big “good night” from all the USDB astrononauts!

Day 5 at Space Camp

The Von Lions team awoke this morning groggy from their late night Escape and Evasion mission (which they successfully completed without TOO many captured teammates) and rolled their suitcases, duffel bags and exhausted bodies to the cafeteria to eat their final meal as a team. They laughed and hurriedly signed what they liked most about Space Camp, who they’d miss and how social media will keep them connected. Tears were shed and hugs were shared……..and then it was time to graduate.20140502-144714.jpgAs they marched proudly towards their graduation, thoughts must’ve circled their heads; “Can I?” “Will I?” “What if” are but a few, but as they gazed into the Alabama morning sun, the wheels were definitely turning. They had not only completed a week as an astronaut, but had completed it well, with obstacles (planned and unplanned) thrown their way, missions which amassed anomalies, and even engineered (with great ability) space suits, water purification devices and rockets!

20140502-144721.jpgThe Von Lions proudly stood as the National Anthem was played overhead and they silently and respectfully waited as other astronauts in training proceeded to the stage. Their team was called, they all rose in unison and valiantly took their place on the stage in front of fellow astronauts, parents, interpreters and teachers…….now was their time.

20140502-144810.jpgEach recently dubbed astronaut received their proper graduation certificate, accolades and team patch that they’d design as a conglomerate. This conglomerate didn’t know it’s parts just 5 days prior, nor did it know the hurdles it would overcome, but they had done it. The Von Lions team were now officially astronauts.


In addition to the wide-toothed smiles, joyous tears, high fives and hugs, the Von Lions team was applauded and recognized for their extraordinary grasp of  engineering. The Advanced Space Academy Commander’s Cup patch denotes the perfect ending to an incredible week for the Von Lions team. Their intelligence, teamwork and communication amounted to many newly formed friendships, good times and long-lasting memories!


Day 4 at Space Camp

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Today began with a double dose of Space Camp missions. Both the Bravo and Charlie missions were today, immediately following breakfast, so the Von Lions team definitely had their work cut out for them!

Meseret and Kyle worked hard in the ISS to switch the right switches and to push the right buttons in coordination with their orbit around earth, as well as keeping lines of communication open with mission control.

NASA’s ISS travels its earth orbit at 17,500 mph and is circles earth 16 times per day! Using one of various sites, you can spot the ISS from any location on earth, given the time of day (typically dawn or dusk, when the sun’s light isn’t too bright, but can reflect off of the solar panels of the ISS) and time of year. While Meseret was in the ISS, Aaron was busy with his extravehicular activity. His role in the Bravo mission was to operate the Canadarm efficiently to fix the instrument bay of a satellite as well as repairing a damaged light atop the satellite (probably from space debris, like in Gravity). Aaron got into his spacesuit (armed first with an ice vest because even in space, working so hard and in such thick suits makes astronauts sweat!) then crawled through the airlock to climb to the exterior of the space shuttle. Upon his safe return to the shuttle, Aaron sent USDB his well wishes and signed a quick hello to his friends before disrobing to his regular space suit and finalizing his checklist before the mission ended.


Today (May 1st) was also Interpreter Appreciation Day, so the astronauts finished their Bravo mission, then thanked their interpreters; Dean, Angie and Aaron. These three interpreters have worked incredibly hard this week to help the Von Lions be very successful. The very thoughtful Von Lions team thanked their interpreters with cards signed by the team and gave them each a tin of space putty that can tear, bounce and hold secret messages. Thank you Dean, Angie and Aaron!

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 After a successful Bravo mission and a heart-felt thank you session for the incredible interpreters that’ve graced the Von Lions this week with their signing knowledge, the Von Lions took a short break to get some water, and use the bathroom. In their absence, mission control was quiet, darkened and seemed to be prepping itself for the Charlie mission that was to come for the Von Lions team.

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For the Charlie mission, the Von Lions were a well-oiled machine, ready to tackle anomalies (the word NASA uses for “problems” because “problems” has too strong of a negative connotation) and seemed to have a good grasp of teamwork and communication in their toolkit of skills acquired this week. Well, in the Charlie mission, they truly shined by using all of the tools they had!

Walker was the communicator in Mission Control who spoke with the astronauts and scientists in the ISS, one of which happened to be Ronnald, so the communication between them went well…..until the Space Camp administrators decided that the Von Lions would benefit from one of the toughest anomalies that could occur. Due to not one, but two, video failures, via a fuzzy, non-consistent feed, both Walker and the ISS scientists felt the struggle of weak communication signal and quickly adapted to the spotty chances they had to relay messages and worked through the difficulties.

While Walker and Ronnald sifted through the anomalies incurred by the purposeful administration, Meseret and the rest of the Mission Control team worked hard on anomalies of their own. Because they had trained for single and multiple anomalies that may light up their Caution and Warning (C&W) screen, the administrators also deemed them worthy of some very difficult anomalies including multiple anomalies occurring at once, some that required conversation and discussion in Mission Control, and some that required the astronauts on their EVA, or the already stressed out commander and pilot in the cockpit of the shuttle!

20140501-120709.jpgThough countless anomalies arose, caused frustration and resulted in certain mission positions trumping others in final decisions being made, the Von Lions team worked through them and landed safely to complete their very tough Charlie mission!

Rocket Launch Time! After their Charlie Mission knocked some of the pep from their step, the Von Lions proceeded to the sunny, grassy field near the U.S. Space and Rocket Center to launch the Estes model rockets that they’d built earlier in the week. Not only did this activity provide respite from the stress of a mission, it provided some time in the sun, acquisition of vitamin D and an abundance of things that explode!

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After the excitement of the rocket launch, the Von Lions ate a quick lunch and headed to the simulators which allow them to feel the weightlessness of the moon! On the moon, astronauts weigh 1/6th of what they weigh on earth, so the Von Lion astronauts enjoyed the “moon walk” they took by floating across the moon’s surface, some of them daintily, others of them heavy-footed, and some even chose to spin!

In addition to the moon walk that the Utahn astronauts got to enjoy, they had the option of stepping up to a NASA and Space Camp favorite, the multi-axis trainer. This circle inside of a circle inside of a circle construction gives the feeling of dizziness and disorientation often associated with re-entry. Though NASA astronauts use a square design now, this simulator is often used for pilots/commanders to re-orient their bearings as they soar through the earth’s atmosphere.



20140501-222218.jpgAnother facet of astronaut training is weightlessness (zero G) and “increased” weight (called g-force). Though the astronauts train on something a bit different than the SpaceShot, the Utahn astronauts were able to enjoy the SpaceShot which arranges the passengers in a seated circle around a tower, then launches them (increased g-force) to the top of the tower. Once they arrive there, the astronauts are taunted then “dropped” so that they can experience a moment of stomach-dropping weightlessness!

Because the Von Lions were a part of a hybrid program, Thursday night’s activity, after much preparation all week in patrolling, silent communication (the Deaf astronauts were already pros!) and tactics in maneuvers to overtake a base, and to place a bomb or secure a facility, the Von Lions had their Escape and Evasion mission in which they had place a bomb under a specific F4 helicopter in the pitch black, then also had to secure their base from invasion. In addition to being tracked by enemies resulting in capture and “taking out” the enemies via sneaky tactics, the Von Lions spent most of the evening crawling on their stomachs through the Alabama woods, silently communicating and working efficiently together.20140501-223932.jpg

Day 3 at Space Camp

The morning began with the Von Lions eating some scrambled eggs, star-shaped hash browns and juice. The students seemed to enjoy the warm nourishment and chatted lethargically as they woke up.  After breakfast, the Von Lions team headed to the Leo classroom and learned about the Environment Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) on the International Space Station. The ECLSS controls atmospheric pressure within the ISS to detect fire, suppress a fire if it occurs, to balance oxygen levels and to control waste management and water supply. The atmosphere of ISS if of the utmost importance, but the ECLSS also collects, processes and store water and waste produced by the astronauts. The ECLSS also removes methane from humans’ metabolic processes and, via activated charcoal filters, removes ammonia from the astronauts’ sweat. The Von Lions divided into teams and began brainstorming about how they could build the most effective water filtration system. The students had to utilize a coffee filter, set inside a funnel, then use various materials (noodles, rocks, pebbles, ammonia chips and activated charcoal) each team received 5 scoops of any of those materials, or a mixture of them to build their filter.



Aaron and Ronnald got their space suits on and waited patiently for their Alpha mission to begin!

20140430-122525.jpgRonnald was one of the most hard-working Extravehicular Activity specialists that NASA has ever seen. He calculated the proper angles and communicated wonderfully with Mission Specialist 1 and 2. Meseret and Ari, after getting their ice vests on for thermoregulation, and donning their space boots, helmets and puffy white suits, they climbed through the airlock and confronted the issues on the exterior of their shuttle.



Aaron and his partner worked hard on an exothermic (heat-releasing) experiment and created a foam that became hot and solidified, shortly after being catalyzed.
20140430-122604.jpgAfter their Alpha Mission (which went smoothly and all objectives were achieved!) the Von Lions team quickly went to a nearby auditorium for a special guest. The guest, Steve Forey is a very inspiring, Deaf RIT graduate who found his way through working with robotics. Now, as an engineer, Steve creates drones similar to how the Google Maps camera functions, utilizing global positioning satellites (GPS) to move throughout the world taking photographs while also providing a point of view perspective. His drone, though, functions like a helicopter and is autonomous when it’s outside and can receive a satellite signal (much like your phone).

20140430-201528.jpgAfter Miss Baker and Able were discussed yesterday, Aaron and Meseret’s interest was piqued and they had the honor of visiting Miss Baker’s grave, after she passed away on November 29, 1984 at a Auburn University veterinarian clinic due to kidney failure. She is buried at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center.



20140430-201614.jpgAfter the engineer brought brilliant ideas and hopeful mindsets for the future to the astronauts, they proceeded to the Aviation Challenge grounds of Space Camp to learn how to fly an F18 flight simulator. The Von Lions counselor described the procedures for takeoff and landing in great detail, and then the Von Lions had their chance to fly!


Dinner was delicious and all of the Von Lions were hungry from their hard work at Aviation Challenge, so they eagerly devoured their dinner and headed briefly to the Space Camp gift shop to find sweet treats and surprises for their families at home.

The Von Lions closed out their evening with another session at Aviation Challenge, learning how to use their onscreen radar to identify friendly and enemy planes, identify various targets to bomb, land at or fly by, and how to establish flying formations with their teammates. All of the Von Lions then challenged the Jolly Goddards (another Space & Aviation Challenge hybrid team) to dog fight, so the planes took to the air, engaged in barrel rolls, escape maneuvers and full throttle techniques and chased each other in aerial warfare.

Another successful day for the Von Lions team, they are excited for tomorrow, when they will complete their second and third mission, as well as use their learned patrolling skills to protect their army base from invasion tomorrow night!

Day 2 at Space Camp

After yet another tornado warning and siren sent them to the basement of the habitat (the dorm where the astronauts sleep) the Utahn astronauts awoke this morning ready and eager to eat some breakfast and begin their day.Once breakfast was finished, the astronauts were bussed off to Area 51 were they would experience a 32 ft. telephone which they would scale, then leap off of, with hopes of touching a nearby dangling rope. This creation is affectionately known as the Pamper Pole (potentially because it’s fear-inducing qualities may cause you to need a diaper?) and at 32 ft, beaming in the Alabama sun, it intimidated some of the Von Lions when they first arrived.


















20140429-131144.jpgFor the Charlie (third) mission, new positions were given and the Utahn astronauts were placed in their new roles. Aaron was named the Guidance Navigation and Control specialist (GNC) in Mission Control, Walker was named Flight Dynamics Officer (FDO), Meseret was placed in the International Space Station to do some science experiments and  and Ronnald was deemed the Flight Director for the mission! Aaron had to learn how to read weather patterns, determine velocity of a rocket and to measure altitude while the rocket works through its mission.







Meseret is learning how to communicate with Mission Control via the monitors in ISS. Likewise, astronauts relay the results of their experiments to Mission Control while they work through their procedures. Currently, some of the most exciting results that NASA is obtaining every day are those relating to 3-D printing in Space! While Meseret won’t be printing any materials to fix the ISS, she will mix chemicals and figure out how reactions may occur in space.

Walker, as the Flight Dynamics Officer had the difficult job of measuring the usage of fuel during the flight. Same as in an airplane, as gas/fuel is burned off, the weight of the rocket changes, which affects lift, drag, thrust and gravity (the 4 forces of flight). Walker had to persevere and do a lot of calculating to keep the rocket smoothly obtaining and keeping its proper trajectory.







Have you ever heard or read that monkeys went into space?!?! Yes, they have! On May 28, 1959 at 2:39am, Miss Baker (a squirrel monkey purchased from a pet store in Miami) and Able (a Rhesus monkey) went into space and spent 16 minutes (9 of which were weightless!) and flew to an altitude of 300 miles! They were not alone either, Miss Baker and Able were accompanied by fungus spores, human blood, e.coli, onion, mustard and corn seeds, the pupae of fruit flies, yeast and even sperm and eggs from a sear urchin! Their launch sent them from the launch pad in Cape Canaveral in Florida (known as Cape Kennedy from 1963-1973) and totaled 1500 miles which landed them in the ocean near Puerto Rico. Interestingly, many animals of various species preceded Miss Baker and Able in flight, but the monkeys’ resemblance to humans (especially at the genetic level) signified a just development in the space programs throughout the world. Another famous mammal to experience a rocket launch was Laika, a mutt dog found wandering the streets of Moscow, Russia! Laika was launched on November 3, 1957 (in attempt to “beat” the American space program’s development) in the Sputnik 2. Laika’s ascent into space (and Russian history) was earmarked though because 6 days into the mission, all electrical systems and operating systems failed and Laika died. There are rumors that Laika’s 4th day’s worth of food was poisoned so that Laika didn’t experience the system failure, but there is no certain record of it. Also, even if Laika and the Sputnik 2 had continued with their mission to orbit the earth every 1 hour and 42 minutes, ultimately the mission would’ve failed because in the rush to create an adequate shuttle resulted in completely failing to prepare Laika and the Sputnik 2 for re-entry!



These pictures show Miss Baker and Able’s rise to fame, also documented in this news report.

Following their time with Miss Baker and Able, the Utahn astronauts learned how to separate oxygen and hydrogen in water via a process called electrolysis! After attaching aluminum foil (a conductor) to a tongue depressor, they put the strips of aluminum foil into their cup of salt water (and made sure that they weren’t touching because that would short out the battery they were about to attach!) and then using alligator clips, clipped the positive and negative ends of a battery to the aluminum foil. Because salt water is conductive, the electric current moved through the water and essentially the aluminum foil became a positive and negative terminal. The water bubbled and fizzed and the side which collected oxygen amassed bubbles on its surface.


20140429-141704.jpgAfter approximately 20 minutes of bubbling and fizzing, the students removed the battery attachments and in their stead, clipped a multimeter to the aluminum foil. They then measured the electrical power that they had accrued in the water. As the water’s bonds “snap” back together, energy is created and can provide various amounts of electrical power for a laptop, fan or your iPhone!


20140429-144043.jpgFollowing a hearty dinner to replenish their minds and bodies, the astronauts prepared for one of the most sought after, looked-forward to activities of Space Camp week – SCUBA! After an introduction on Sunday night, the Von Lions sat down for another briefing on scuba diving safety, hand symbols and the manual signs that they would use to communicate underwater. The Von Lions did an amazing job of paying attention and seemed mentally prepared, so that next obvious step was to hit the water! Approximately 15 minutes into the skills teaching, there was a phone call and a weather station reported a lightning flash within the mileage radius warranting the astronauts left the water. The Von Lions were patient while the lightning passed, and started a lecture on patrolling to prepare for their Escape and Evasion mission tomorrow night. When the lightning successfully left the area, the Von Lions were eager to get back in the water. The happy report for the Von Lions is that most of them learned the skills to go to the bottom of the 25 foot tank! The students learned to recover their regulator if it was knocked loose, to replace their mask if it was knocked or bumped, and to clear their mask if it had some water in it.





20140430-152246.jpgWhen the students mastered the skills, they utilized those skills immediately by slowly lowering themselves to the bottom of the tank – then it was time to play! Ronnald stayed on the training platform at approximately 4 feet depth, and looked around while breathing underwater, and Aaron, Meseret and Walker made it to the bottom! They had a blast playing underwater basketball with a bowling ball!







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.

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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.