Every year, millions of children fill their summer vacations with songs, crafts and outdoor activities at the camp. Summer camps in the US have many things in common, but Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, is unique. Instead of canoeing and archery, young participants can ride spacecraft simulators, build robots, and program computers. The Space Camp welcomed its first aspiring astronauts in 1982, and more than 900,000 campers have since participated in the program. Here are some facts about the Space Camp, from its famous alumni to its portrayal in the movie.
. 1 The film SpaceCamp has increased its popularity.
SpaceCamp which was inspired by the real camp in Huntsville, Alabama, was not a big hit when it hit theaters in 1986 for $ 9,697,739 – just over half the budget. But it is not completely forgotten. The film was successful in the home video market and became so popular that it shaped the pop culture sustainable. Dr. Deborah Barnhart, the actual manager of the camp in the 1980s, told AL.com that the number of visitors doubled after the release of the film. SpaceCamp shot many of his local scenes in the center of Huntsville. The life-sized space shuttle flight deck and center deck built for the film were donated to the camp and used as simulators from 1986 to 2012.
. 2 The Space Camp was the idea of a rocket designer.
Some people may be surprised that the Space Camp is located in Alabama, not Florida, where Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center are located (the movie SpaceCamp is set in Florida, though it's in Alabama was filmed). But Huntsville, Alabama, has been an important aviation center since the 1950s, when Wernher von Braun and his rocket team moved there. The German scientist had designed ballistic missiles for the US military after the Second World War and, shortly after his move to Huntsville, drew his attention to aerospace. He launched the US Space and Missile Center to showcase the region's rocket technology to tourists. Von Braun also had the idea of a scientifically-oriented alternative to traditional summer camps after seeing children who visited the rocket center and took notes. The Space Camp was opened in 1982, a few years after his death, in the center.
. 3 Space Camp activities go beyond the space.
The kids at Space Camp do not just ride huge rocket simulators. After signing up, young campers choose a route they want to focus on. They can study aviation, learn aeronautical navigation and combat techniques, opt for robotics and build their own robots, or stick to space-related topics and activities. The latest experience at Space Camp, Cyber Camp, teaches children programming and online security skills.
. 4 The Space Camp Simulators do not make campers sick.
The Space Camp houses three simulators based on real-world training equipment used by astronauts to prepare for space missions. The most intensive rig is the multi-axis trainer. Watching a video of it in action may be enough to make you feel unwell. According to the camp website, campers should not "get sick or dizzy" on any of our simulators. For multi-axle coaches, this is because the driver's belly stays in the center of the chair throughout the simulation. Even if the chair itself turns in all directions. Motion sickness occurs when your inner ear fluid and your eyes send conflicting information to your brain. As the rig staggers so wildly, the driver's inner fluid has no chance to move and make him vomit.
. 5 Space Camp has some famous alumni.
The Space Camp attracts young minds from around the world, including some celebrities. Chelsea Clinton participated in the weeklong program when her father was in the White House in 1993. Amy Carter, Jimmy Carter's daughter, and Karenna Gore, daughter of Al Gore, also enrolled in the camp. But not every famous Space Camp graduate came from the world of politics: South African actress Charlize Theron is another notable graduate.
. 6 Several Space Camp graduates later became astronauts.
Many children who go to Space Camp dream of becoming astronauts, and for some of them this dream becomes reality. The alumni of the camp include the "enormous 12" – a handful of Space Camp graduates who have made it into space. Most members of this elite group were trained by NASA, but some of them worked for other space agencies such as the ESA.
. 7 Most space campers have MINT professions.
Even though they are no longer astronauts, most Space Camp participants have a bright future ahead of them. According to the camp, 61 percent of graduates are studying aerospace, defense, energy, education, biotechnology or technology, or are already working in one of these areas. Of the alumni who made careers in MINT, half stated that Space Camp inspired this decision.
. 8 There is a space camp for visually impaired children.
The US Space and Missile Center in Huntsville, Alabama is hosting a second space camp that has much in common with its original program. There are space simulators, astronaut training missions and even diving – the main difference being that the children are blind or visually impaired there. The Space Camp for the Visually Impaired (SCIVIS) offers children in grades 4 to 12 a crash course in various MINT subjects. They use barrier-free tools, such as computers, that are suitable for speech and reading materials in braille or large print. The activities for the one-week camp are organized by teachers who are familiar with the needs of visually impaired students.
. 9 Double Dare sent winners to the Space Camp.
After conquering the obstacle course of the Nickelodeon Gameshow Double Dare Kid Contestants were sent home with various prizes. While this was undoubtedly exciting in the 1980s and 1990s, many of the awards – including encyclopaedias, tape recorders, and AOL subscriptions – have not aged well. A trip to Space Camp was one of the biggest awards players could win, and it's one of the few that still has value today.
10 adults can also go to Space Camp.
If you've never been to Space Camp as a kid, you did not miss your chance. While the regular Space Camp is only open to children ages 9 to 18, the US Space & Rocket Center also offers camp programs for older space enthusiasts. The Family Space Camp is designed for groups with at least one child and one adult. If you do not plan to meet with a child, you can sign up for the three-day Adult Space Camp, which is for 18-year-olds only.