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Reaching out to the stars!

As kids we have always been interested in stars, planets and particularly the moon. As a child I too dreamt of stepping my foot on the moon. This year (2009) Sakal newspaper Pvt Ltd and young buzz club brought me closer to this dream. The team had arranged a 15 day tour to the US and a 6 day space camp at the US rocket and space centre, Huntsville, Alabama. The camp is situated in the scientific and extraordinary campus at US rocket and space centre where astronauts are trained before their real missions. The camp is a great deal of fun excitement and knowledge. The camp commenced with a huge inauguration ceremony where we were teamed up as team Goddard after the famous astronaut GODDARD.
The camp started with lot of enthusiasm and fun with each day being a new challenge. The first day we toured around the campus and saw various space shuttles, rockets and capsules used for earlier flights. We were also shown the history of space science right from the days of Gemini and Apollo programs. We were shown 3-D films related to space missions and ISS(International Space Station) at the world’s largest IMAX 3-D theatre where watching a film is such a realistic experience!!! Then we went on to the most important and exciting part of the space camp-the missions! Each of us was chosen as a crew member. While the CAPCOM ,CATO, Flight Director, ACO, EVA, MISSION SCIENTIST work from the mission control centre, the Pilot, Commander Mission Specialist 1and 2 work in the Space shuttle .
Shuttle missions are the highlights of the space camp that take place at superbly equipped mission center complex. Each trainee takes on the role of a member of mission control or a shuttle flight crew. In space camps minutely detailed full scale space shuttle are cockpit ,middeck and mission control mockups ,crew members inside the orbiter communicate with mission control working as a team towards completion of a successful mission. We are also learnt about how astronauts live, work, eat and perform in space. The space camp also consists of various stimulators like MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit) which gives us the experience of non frictional activities, G-force accelerator which rotates us in our chair at a high speed, and Space Shot which is a stimulator which lifts the trainee seated on a chair up in the sky at about 160ft in 6seconds! What a feeling!
The camp area also consists of a leadership and confidence building section called the AREA 51.There we as a team performed various balancing tricks like balancing 11 members on one plank of wood with extreme concentration and planning. We learnt to function as a team, supporting, helping, and caring for each member. The most difficult of all tasks was climbing a 80ft high pole suspended in the air and standing on it and jumping down from there. It took a lot of determination and courage to do such a task! Another such task included wall climbing (150ft!) and coming down by the means of a zip line. These tasks instilled a new sense of courage and confidence in me. The camp ended with a formal graduation ceremony in which team Goddard won the prize for the most outstanding team in the Advanced Space Academy.
The space camp has given new dimensions to us and has opened our minds to various new fields. I would like to share the kind of approach towards Indian students I got to see during the trip. We were thought of as wise and smart, cultural and different from the other campers coming from other countries. It is our culture and values that set us apart.
The trip also included a visit to the magnificent statue of liberty known for its beauty and its significance as a symbol of freedom between France and the USA. We also saw the hub of New York, the ever lively and fascinating Times Square and Broadway which reminded us of Mamma mia!! The next day we went to CNN (Cable News Network) headquarters at Atlanta where we saw the processing, editing and working at the world’s biggest news head quarters. We had loads of fun at the World of Coca-Cola where we saw the entire journey of the world’s best loved beverage right from its early days to its current popularity. We tasted about 180 flavours of coca cola right from ginger coke to cherry coke and even pineapple flavoured coke!!!
The entire trip was a memorable and enriching experience for me as I got to learn many new things, meet new people, make new friends and see new places besides exploring many aspects of my personality and hidden talents. I would like to pursue a bright career in space engineering!! Thanks to this trip I explored a new me!!!!

Ramolee Chaudhari
Bhavan's Sulochana Natu Vidya Mandir, Pune

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