Australian Space Camp ambassador: Nathan Washington - part 1

by User Not Found | Sep 04, 2015

Nathan-mission-control-blogEarlier this year, ASG student Nathan Washington was successfully chosen to be one of only three Australian students to attend the U.S Space & Rocket Center in Alabama. Nathan spent one week at the International Space Camp from July 18-25. Nathan says it was both physically and mentally challenging, but one of the best experiences of his life. Below, Nathan tells us about the lead up to Space Camp and shares some highlights from the first few days.

'The moment I found out I was going to be representing Australia at the International Space Camp 2015, was completely surreal. One minute I was sitting, bored out of my mind in maths class when I got an email, and then the next minute I was in my assistant principal’s office, excitedly showing her the email on my phone, ecstatic beyond words. That day passed by with a flash, the reactions of my friends and family still fresh in my mind. I had applied a few weeks prior, but actually getting the opportunity was completely unexpected, and even thinking about going to the U.S Space & Rocket Center sent my head spinning.

Suddenly, I was meeting my fellow students whom I would be travelling with, at the ASG National Excellence in Teaching Awards (ASG NEiTA). Both Leroy and Sarah were fascinating to speak with, and contributed further towards my anticipation to our shared journey. After the presentations we spoke to ASG NEiTA recipient Michael Harris, who was also selected to go to Space Camp, and was just as excited.

The lead up was very busy, with Skype sessions organising every aspect of our opening ceremony performance; and interviews for local papers and radio stations. Every day was counting closer and closer to arriving at Huntsville airport, and the wait was almost unbearable.

Finally, the day came. I got up at 4:45am on Friday to fly from Melbourne to Sydney, where I met up with the other members of the Australian team. From there, we embarked on the 17-hour flight to Dallas, known as the longest flight in the world, over 13,800 kilometres long. The trip was full of movies and countless cups of coffee, followed by another two-hour flight from Dallas International Airport. We finally arrived at Huntsville Airport, the same day we left due to the time difference. We met a Space Camp representative, who put us on a bus. From there we were taken to our accommodation at the U.S Space and Rocket Center, where we all settled in and went to sleep fairly quickly.

The following day we were woken up at 8am, marking the start of the first official day of International Space Camp 2015. We went and toured the centre, riding on the G-force (a centrifuge-type ride simulating up to 3Gs of force) and the Space Shot, a ride similar to some in Australian theme parks. We also explored the museum, full of fascinating pieces of technology and information, including a gargantuan Saturn V rocket hanging overhead, as we walked the length of the massive room. Afterwards we rehearsed the opening ceremony, followed up by the real thing at 5:30pm. Being introduced to many different cultures was incredible with presentations from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, India, New Zealand and Norway; everyone dressed in their own wacky costumes.

Watch the Australian opening ceremony.

After the ceremony, we had dinner provided by the de Midi group, which was touted as one of the best Deep South meals we would ever eat. It lived up to everyone’s expectations!

On Sunday morning we woke up and divided into our teams. Leroy went over to our immediate arch nemesis Goddard, while Sarah and I were put into the standout best team, Oberth. After breakfast, we were told we were going to the IMAX theatre. All of the Americans who had participated in the Advanced Academy program were extremely excited, but personally I couldn’t see the difference between that and our own IMAX cinema in Melbourne. However, my mind was completely blown when we walked in, and it was revealed to me the whole screen was a dome above us, similar to a planetarium. We watched a fascinating movie about the history of our space travel, enhanced by the screen and narrated by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio. After lunch, we headed over to the Aviation Challenge and participated in a couple of scenarios; going down in a helicopter and having to swim out of a fake chassis, lowered into the water; being stranded and having to escape via an airlift attached to the helicopter. Afterwards, we went through a handful of training sessions, from preparation for the missions to our scuba session, and then had our first engineering lesson, focusing on space hardware. By this point, we were all exhausted and got back to our rooms at about 10:30pm, quickly falling asleep.'

Read part 2 of Nathan's adventures at Space Camp.

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