To Mars and back

At least to Huntsville and back, anyway. Katy finished up Space Academy on Friday morning.

We drove her up last Sunday and dropped her off. After we got her wristband, bedding, checked in at Sick Bay and made up her bed she was ready to unload us so we checked her in as an early arrival and headed out.

Here we are
Here we are

Graduation was Friday morning and in between the trainees were busy, busy, busy.

Katy was on Team Boeing. They got corporate sponsors for a few of the teams so that explains the non-space name.

Team photo
Team photo

Monday started off with team-building activities at Area 51.

Boeing Monday 062

Boeing Monday 060

Training on the five degrees of freedom chair. They also trained on the multi-axis trainer (the one that spins you around) and the 1/6 gravity chair but no one took any photos of either of those things.

Boeing Monday 149 Boeing Monday 147

Tuesday was training for the Orion mission. Katy’s position was Lunar Mission Specialist.

Inside Orion
Inside Orion
In Rising Star, where the Mars astronauts will live
In Rising Star, where the Mars astronauts will live

Wednesday was the mission. Katy went on a space walk.

In Orion
In Orion
Leaving the hatch
Leaving the hatch
Outfitted for a space walk
Outfitted for a space walk
Repairing a window
Repairing a window
The mission team, who is clearly taking all this very seriously.
The mission team, who is clearly taking all this very seriously.

They also did a shuttle mission and Katy’s job was mission scientist in mission control so she talked to the station astronauts. We didn’t get any photos of that mission.

On Thursday they built a heat shield to protect their shuttle (a screw) then the shields were tested using a blow torch.

Boeing Thursday 080 Boeing Thursday 036

Another big activity was designing a Mars colony and then presenting it. Katy said their colony was called Marnia (Mars+Narnia).

Boeing Wednesday 183

Boeing Wednesday 187

Building and launching rockets is another big highlight of the week. No photos of that, either. Katy told us later her rocket landed near the street so she wasn’t able to retrieve it. She knew where it landed, though, and there are rockets all over the area. So Katy wanted to go look for it. She found it or what was left of it, anyway. (They put their initials on them.)

Rocket roadkill
Rocket roadkill

Throw in some space history, a knowledge bowl, some thrill rides (not many as G-Force and Space Shot were down for most of the week) and some shopping in the gift shop and before long it was time for graduation.

Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson was the astronaut of the week. He spoke to all the programs, then at graduation, then at the astronaut luncheon.

Graduation was in the Davidson Center under the Saturn V. In the air condition and out of any potential rain.

The graduates filing in
The graduates filing in
Gibson speaking about team work
Gibson speaking about team work

 

Katy getting her wings and certificate
Katy getting her wings and certificate

Each graduate receives wings and a certificate. If they have a flight suit with a name badge their name badge has been upside down all week and it gets turned over.

Each team is recognized by its day trainer who talks a little about the week’s experience. One trainer said his crew learned the difference between hand sanitizer and popcorn butter. I’m guessing someone was going to clean their hands before a movie and got a handful of butter.

Following the presentation of each graduate, awards are presented. Katy said she was in shock when Team Boeing was announced as winner of the Commander’s Cup. The teams rack up points for everything they do all week long and the team with the most points wins. Katy said their team came in second in the quiz bowl and was 600 points behind the winning team. They must have made it up with everything else, though. She said they got 150/150 on their Mars colony. Everything else must have scored high, too.

Commander's Cup patch
Commander’s Cup patch

There were also awards for Best Mission Patch, Outstanding Team (Katy says this for actions, not points) and the Right Stuff Award, which goes to an individual that exhibits the best leadership skills.

After graduation we attended the astronaut lunch. As I mentioned, Hoot Gibson was the speaker. He was very interesting and entertaining. He was the first American Astronaut to cross over to Mir. When he and the Russian Cosmonaut shook hands the president said it was “the handshake that ended the Cold War”. He said he learned a little Russian and the first thing he learned to say, which he said in Russian, was “I speak very little Russian and understand nothing”. Although he says now he can carry on “a bad conversation”.

He showed several photos, including this one which has been on everything from magazine covers to the packaging for astronaut ice cream:

IMG_7063

He said as co-pilot he was the only one with absolutely nothing to do during the space walk so he took pictures and he knew if he didn’t mess this one up, it would be on magazine covers.

Following his presentation he answered questions and then posed for photos and autographed tickets.

IMG_7068

I told Katy “Tell Mr. Gibson what you want to do when you grow up” and she said “go to Mars!”. He asked “what does Mom think of that?”. I said the chances of it happening are so slim there’s no point worrying about it right now.

 

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