Being an astronaut is a children's game

Being an astronaut is a children's game

"When I grow up I want to be an astronaut", is something that many children say and that only a few manage to achieve. However, those who dream of going to space can recreate it at Space Camp, a children's camp in the United States dedicated entirely to travel beyond Earth.

Simulating missions in space, training as NASA astronauts do, or feeling the emotion of a countdown before a launch are some of the experiences that short crazy people with stratospheric ambitions can enjoy at Space Camp, which since 1982 is located in an Alabama city called Huntsville.

Although it does not have the fame of Houston or Cape Canaveral, Huntsville also has a great aerospace history, to the point that its nickname is "The Rocket City", The City of Rocket.

It was in Huntsville that Wernher von Braun designed the Saturn V rocket, used, for example, in the Apollo XI mission to reach the moon for the first time, and also in this city with an important scientific activity is the Marshall Space Flight Center of NASA.

Space Camp is located next to the Space and Rocket Center of the United States, a NASA museum on the conquest of space with a huge Saturn V presiding over the central room.

National Geographic, which next November 12 premieres the second season of the series "Mars" about a hypothetical colonization of the Red Planet, invited a group of media to visit the Space Camp facilities to see how children learn, while playing, about the enigmas of space.

Thus, the little ones, with blue monkeys from NASA as if they were preparing to travel to infinity and beyond, can take thrifty laps in the multi-axis simulator or experience the gravity of the Moon thanks to a set of harnesses that allows them to almost float in the air.

The Space Camp program, with different plans for children ages 9 to 18, also includes practical scuba lessons or scientific classes on how to build the best thermal insulation for a rocket.

The complete simulation of a space mission, from takeoff to landing, is the high point of training, where children must join forces so that everything goes according to plan.

With positions ranging from the ship's commander to the flight director at the control center, participants recreate the mission, including scientific experiments or spacewalks.

And, as everything is a game, you can even laugh when someone releases the worst harbinger of a space trip: "Houston, we have a problem."

After having welcomed 800,000 people from 150 countries since it opened its doors, according to data from its leaders, Space Camp, which also offers stays for adults, puts the emphasis on teamwork and collaboration beyond races and nations. an approach reminiscent of the interstellar utopia of "Star Trek".

"You get to see the passion that children have for science and space, but you also see how they work together (…), combining, knowing each other, finding their weaknesses and strengths and working as a team," he told Efe. the Space Camp instructors, Jillian Sweat.

"I think my generation is planning to go to Mars and these children will be the generation that will take us there, so it is very important for them to know what is being planned and to be enthusiastic about it," he added.

In the same sense, Monica Araya, Costa Rican expert in the fight against climate change and advises for National Geographic in "Mars", stressed in Efe the importance of disclosure so that science "does not remain bubbles of specialists" .

"Human beings, in general, we have a bias towards the short term, the everyday, we are made to deal with what we have in front of us," Araya said about the difficulty of raising awareness about issues such as climate change or space exploration, which They go beyond a generation.

"It is important that children have windows that are very open to issues that transcend their daily lives: science, space, natural resources, nature … All this opens windows," he said.

"To that extent, it is vital to reconnect children with these possibilities, and if we do not, we have much to lose and fall into the immediacy of the game, the shopping center and everything that distracts," he concluded.


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