our first night in the hab was… pretty rough.
like i said, we went out the night before. nothing crazy, but i think we crashed around midnight-1am. not bad. i set my alarm for 6:30–we were supposed to all meet in the cafeteria at 7:30. there were maybe 4 or 5 showers per floor (i think, i didn’t check out the other girls bathroom), and since i didn’t want to get stuck waiting, i wanted to make sure i was up early enough. contrary to what one might think, there are a ton of women/girls at space camp.
turns out, i didn’t really need my alarm. at 3:30am, a mass exodus of 65 children had an early fight back to puerto rico. holy shit, 65 children + luggage + 8 flights of stairs… SO LOUD. we all got woken up, basically. but i think i was the only one who actually got out of bed thinking it was wake up time. i gathered all my shower crap and walked over to my phone (other weird thing, not sleeping next to my phone, plug was way across the room).
i think most people would agree with me when i say that waking up and realizing you have 3 more hours to sleep… is one of the best feelings in the world. period.
i put my flip flops and shower stuff back, and passed out again. until 5:30. when i was woken up again. i don’t remember what it was this time, other than a bunch of people talking and rummaging about. it wasn’t as bad as the mass exodus. back to sleep until 6:30.
thing is, the wake ups weren’t the worst part. the worst part was the cold. our room had the AC on full blast. non stop. i get that alabama gets hot, but it was not hot that weekend. mid 50s/low 60s most of the time. and it’s not summer yet. john told us that alabama just keeps the AC on all the time. but we were not equipped for sub zero temperatures. we all froze our asses off. combine that with the super thin mattress and super thin blanket/sheets and super hard bed under the mattress… it was quite lovely.
it brought back fond memories of girl scout camp, despite how uncomfortable it was. to be honest, i could sleep anywhere at any time. i could sleep on/have slept on a rock. i could sleep curled up in/have slept curled up in an arm chair. i could pass out in our driveway. i have not passed out in our driveway… yet. my 30th birthday is just around the corner, so there’s still time. i can drink 2+ cups of coffee and still fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. it is a blessing, i must say.
but i know that the rest of our team was not so fortunate, and as a result, almost all of them booked the marriot for the following night. BUT I POWERED THROUGH.
anyway, COMMENCE, DAY 2!
showered. dressed. eager to get my flight suit that day, FINALLY. we were all eager. so i made sure to wear leggings so i had something to have underneath the flight suit. also, it’s like 45-50 degrees outside. at least the wind died down.
walked to breakfast and met everyone in the cafeteria. everyone looked miserable, because everyone slept miserably. it was kind of hilarious seeing the faces. everyone gave each other a nod, like… yup. that happened. PEACH OF A MORNING.
breakfast was pretty tasty. fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt, breakfast burritos, star shaped hash browns (OMG!), scrambled eggs, chicken and waffles, biscuits and sausage gravy. i went with the eggs, hash browns, a banana, and some OJ. and, of course, the coffee.
our first activity for the day… was our team’s mission patch. every team designs a mission patch, much like every team on a mission has their own patch that represents each mission. the only person on our team who could draw was angela, so she got to work. colored pencils, and a box of lysol wipes to trace a circle. she nailed it, basically.
THEN, leslie got to work on writing the supporting paragraph for our patch. between the two, it was just… spot on. beautiful. our patch was the hab… on pluto. because SO COLD. the paragraph? well, you can read it for yourself. ;)
after mission patches was supposed to be shuttle history, but half of us were so eager to get our flight suits that we wanted no part of that. TO THE GIFT SHOP!
since brett had ordered the flight suit and clothing package when he got my ticket, my stuff was already taken care of and i was supposed to go see the lady in the back room. turns out, that takes a long time. several other people did the same. you go back there and talk to this sweet older lady. she lets you pick out what size hoodie/shirt/shorts/sweatpants, and then gives you your flight suit, backpack.
i put on my flight suit. did a few awkward squats, made sure it fits right.
it fits perfectly.
then… drumroll … NAME PATCH! she put my name patch on. upside down. they flip it over when we graduate.
it is… so awesome.
shit just got real.
after we got our suits, we had bravo mission training.
this time, my group was in the mission control center.
i was the flight commander/guidance, navigation, and controls systems engineer (GNC). remember how i said we didn’t have enough people to man all positions… sometimes we doubled up. so, 3 binders, and multiple reference manuals. and flow charts. information overload, and not nearly enough desk space. my OCD was freaking out a little.
rewind a bit to day 1, when we were in our overview, taking the survey that was supposed to help figure out what positions we should hold. one of the girls on our team asked everyone if any of us had ever flown anything before. i said that i had flown a cessna multiple times. her response was, “oh, you should definitely be commander then!”
in my head i was like, yeah, that makes sense i guess. so i put that down on my survey.
that was not a good idea.
even in the mission training (not even at the mission yet), i learned that i definitely was not cut out for commander. especially when we’re all clueless to begin with.
mission training ended, and next was our tour of the museum with none other than Mr. Alex McCool.
first of all, this man might be one of the most adorable and charming people i’ve ever met. he’s 92, and has seen and done more in his lifetime than i can ever imagine. he spoke, and our team was silent. the only other thing we wanted was more time hanging out with this man.
second of all, this man is absolutely one of the smartest people i’ve ever met (and will ever meet) in my entire life.
As a charter member of the Marshall Center, McCool was instrumental in the design of the propulsion systems for the Saturn launch vehicles that propelled Project Apollo to the Moon and directed project engineering for Skylab, the first space science laboratory.
McCool also served as director of the Structures and Propulsion Laboratory at Marshall during the design of the Space Shuttle’s propulsion elements. He played a leadership role in engineering the shuttle’s main engine and solid rocket boosters.
are you kidding me?
after the tour was the actual mission. was so not ready for this.
i understood the flow of the mission, and what we were supposed to be doing overall.
the part that kept screwing me up is there were all these tasks. and we had multiple groups of people (the orbiter and the ISS) on multiple different channels, plus everyone else on mission control, to talk to. not everything in the books mentions who needs to hear what.
also, once the anomalies started, we had to complete the repairs for those, and keep up with the mission schedule. and i was never sure what items were critical. generally, you pay attention to the anomaly and fix it and you stay on it until it’s done. but there were other various tasks, like shutting the doors and preparing for orbit and preparing for return. all of which seemed pretty damn important, but we were still waiting on, at one point, like 7 other things to get finished. so when your schedule is by the minute, skipping things seems bad, but you have to stay on the schedule. it was frustrating not knowing what was ok to skip.
bottom line, i was looking forward to the last mission on the orbiter where i wouldn’t be the one calling those shots. i am better with black/white, not gray.
after training was lunch. i think i was so flustered and out of it after the mission that i forgot to take pictures for a while. lunch was good, though. i had tiny spaghetti with meatballs, a breadstick, salad, and i think that was it. i was in a zombie like state for a little while. desperately needed caffeine and that food.
after lunch was IMAX! after a super long morning and a spaghetti lunch, a dark theater with gorgeous footage of space… recipe for naptime.
the video was, “Hubble 3D“. after watching that, part of me wanted to just be like YUP I’M DONE, we are all specks and i no longer know what i’m doing with my life. who needs money, anyway? i think my mouth just hung open for the entire movie. absolutely incredible.
i just looked for anything comparable to it on youtube, and came up empty. maybe it’s because of the IMAX, maybe it’s because of NASA magic, but it was one of the most amazing things i’ve ever seen.
also, michelle and i were pretty sure ronnie snored at some point.
also, looking down in that theater was enough to give me vertigo. so steep. i was terrified i was going to trip and just fall forever.
after the IMAX, we all agreed it was time for coffee. at this point, we were ALL in a zombie like state. coffee, bathroom breaks, and i took a few minutes to call brett and caylin.
up next on our schedule was charlie mission training.
this was our long mission. for charlie mission, i was mission specialist 2.
I WAS MADE TO BE MISSION SPECIALIST 2.
as soon as john told us that, i was stoked. why? because mission specialist 2 gets to dangle. fly through the air. full space suit. ice vest. basically, if i could be mission specialist 2 for an hour a day for the rest of my life, i’d be set.
the best part was watching keith and ronnie practice landing the shuttle. keith crash landed us 3 times. twice into the swamp, once into the forest, sideways. at one point, the landing gear was ripped from the shuttle. we could hear john on the radio in the background, “I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THAT COULD HAPPEN!”
lacy and i were just about in tears we were laughing so hard.
soon we were done, and we were off to build rockets.
the rocket we built at adult space camp was not at all unlike the one i built when i was 11 at space camp. which is pretty awesome.
evidently if you stay for a longer camp, you do a more “handmade” approach. or at least i think that’s what i heard john say in class.
and that, ladies and gentlemen, was my rocket. start to finish. so fancy. lots of glue. glue everywhere.
after that, for the first time, we had a little bit of downtime. as in, 30 minutes. i went back to the hab for a few minutes of quiet time. as in, i walked in, sat on the bed, and stared at the wall. washed my face, changed clothes, and met everyone back at the cafeteria.
now it was time for dinner. we had a 1:00 lunch and 4:30 dinner. weird schedule, indeed. dinner was lasagna. carboloading for the 2 hour mission, evidently.
had some tiny lasagna, salad, another breadstick, more coffee. just about everyone topped it off with tiny ice cream. the ice cream freezer was ginormous, and almost entirely composed of vanilla ice cream cups. i think the kids pick it over pretty thoroughly. but we managed to find some chocolates hiding in the bottom.
after dinner was… OUR FINAL MISSION. dun dun dun.
i was tired, yes, and still a little bit out of it. but dammit i was excited about this one.
lacy and i were the mission specialists, ronnie and keith were pilot and commander. we all went up to the main cabin for launch, and i waited impatiently to suit up.
hilarity ensued. listening to those guys banter with mission control (i forget who had the role of CAPCOM, but he was on point) was a riot. at one point, the titanic had sailed into nearby waters and we had to wait. at another point, we had to wait for boaty mcboatface to relocate. multiple other shenanigans. not to mention, john kept throwing up warning messages on the screen, which were not at all warning messages. “mission specialist #1, does pilot look moist?” referring to a quote from another mission.
finally, one of the other trainers yelled up to us that it was time for us to get suited up.
lacy and i went downstairs to get ready.
we put on the ice vest first. the suits are hot as balls, so the ice vest helps a little. then the pants, which are basically overalls. jacket. gloves. headset. helmet. boots. the boots were the tiniest ones they had and they still barely stayed on my feet.
i don’t have good pictures of me in the full getup because the professional photographer took pics, and we’re still waiting to get them back. i can’t wait.
THEN… THIS HAPPENED.
look. i don’t know a damn thing about space shuttles or satellites. but we repaired that thing like a boss.
basically, lacy went up in the arm. rotated the satellite to the correct position (whatever mission control told her over the radio). took the “broken” part off, and handed it to me.
OH, left out the first part. first i had to shimmy down the entire rope and around the middle and up to where lacy was with the satellite.
anyway, she handed me the part.
i shimmied back, went to the wall, replaced it with A (see picture above), shimmied back to lacy, gave her the new one, and she put it on the satellite.
then, she moved out of the way, i stepped up, attempted to balance in full gear while “programming” the satellite according to what mission control said. i could barely reach and the gloves were huge.
(this whole thing was a total nerdgasm/freakout moment)
had to mash a few button combinations on the control panel and switch a few switches.
we did this whole routine twice, once for part A and once for part B.
shimmied all the way back to the orbiter, and got rid of the harness.
climbed back into the orbiter and got out of our space suits. we were hot and sweaty but it was SO MUCH FUN.
we harassed john for a while and watched some trainers smuggle mass amounts of breadsticks from the kitchen. awesome.
got ready for SPACE BOWL! basically, space jeopardy. so fun.
got distracted on the way to jeopardy…
— Whitney Champion (@shortxstack) April 11, 2016
jeopardy was the 3 adult teams against one another. we all sat in rows, each team to a row. one person from each team came up and we stood side by side to answer a question. first person to know the answer mashed the button.
i’m not quick on the buzzer. my first question literally was the answer to 120 divided by 6. and i didn’t mash the button fast enough. i was watching the guy next to me trying to mash the light instead of the button, and got distracted. fail.
anyway, i didn’t get any questions. i was mostly nervous and wanted to watch everyone else play. but our team won by a long shot and it was so much fun.
TEAM COLUMBIA REPRESENT!
we were all pretty stoked.
we went back to the hab and changed clothes. made plans to all meet back at the marriott for drinks.
a handful of us walked to the marriott, and all sat around and had a drink there.
since dinner was at 4:30, some of us were starving. it was almost 10:30 at this point.
we got the hotel shuttle to take us to a nearby outdoor mall that had a nice steakhouse that was open late–Connor’s. it was ronnie, michelle, and myself. we were basically BFFs by this point in the trip.
glenfiddich, salad, pork belly for appetizer. mother of god, so good.
after dinner, we sat and talked for a while. weird waiter was weird. connor’s closed at 11, so we had overstayed our welcome.
moved the party to the bar a few buildings down, BJ’s. had a drink there, and by then we were just dragging. called a cab, and called it a night.
got back to the hab around 2. being the responsible adult that i am, i laid my pajamas out before we went out, and had all my things ready to go in the morning (we had to be packed/moved out/ready before 7:30).
i prepared for the worst that night. we had mentioned the AC earlier in the day to john, how we almost froze the night before, but none of us expected anyone to actually adjust the temperature. so i went to bed in full gear–sweatpants, tank top, hoodie, and all the blankets.
little did i know that they would turn the heat on full blast instead.
that night, i got owned by space camp.