NASA Space School – Senior
21 Kristin Year 11-13 students formed a supergroup with students from St Pauls in Hamilton, Howick, St Andrews in Sydney and Christchurch in Perth.
The first week of the Senior Space School was based at Johnson Space Center Space University (SpaceU). On the first day in Houston, after an official welcome students toured the Neutral Buoyancy Lab where we were lucky enough to see an astronaut suiting up and training to practise an extra-vehicular activity (aka spacewalk) in the zero-g environment around a full scale replica of the International Space Station submerged in a 12.5m deep pool.
Later in the day we used a nearby pool to practise scuba diving and complete assembly and disassembly tasks similar to those which astronauts train as well as control some aquabots to deliver a payload and complete an underwater obstacle course.
The evening dinner concluded with a presentation by Jeff and Ash, engineers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on pathways into being an astronaut or working for NASA as well as their latest projects.
Day 2 of SpaceU began with an inspirational talk from Elizabeth Blome on her pathway into a career with NASA and her current role with the Boeing Commercial Crew Program.
Stimulated by this we began our mission for today: to design, budget and build a Martian habitat. Following the Engineering Design process - research, imagine, plan, create, test and improve - 3 hours later the final products looked amazing and went on display in JSC.
The evening speaker was Nicole Stott - astronaut, aquanaut, artist and CASE special advisor. She shared her 27 years of experience working at NASA including the amazing NEEMO 9 mission where she worked with a six-person crew for 18 days underwater and outlined how she experimented using watercolour paints whilst on the ISS. Nicole is such a kind and humble person who used her stories working as an astronaut to emphasise on the importance of working effectively as a team.
Our students were so inspired and all gathered around after the speech to talk with Nicole and get selfies and autographs.
On Day 3 of SpaceU we toured JSC, visiting mission control for the International Space Station, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility and rocket park which houses the incredible Saturn V rocket.
Students were then tasked with building their own single-stage or multi-stage rockets and designing a heat shield for testing (at 2000C for 30 seconds) and cryo shield to protect a marshmonaut in the extreme cold of liquid nitrogen. Sadly not all marshmallows survived. Dinner was a delicious experience at Gringos Mexican Kitchen.
Day 4 of SpaceU took off with the launching of our rockets built yesterday - rocket science is hard but all our rockets launched successfully - some even deployed their parachute and returned to Earth safely!
We then began our robotics mission, building, coding and controlling robots to collect rock samples on Mars. After a thrilling robot competition we had some time to explore the JSC exhibits including the Independence Space Shuttle and Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Dinner tonight was a feast at the Golden Corral eat-as-much-as-you-want buffet before heading back to JSC for the amazing Galaxy Lights light show around Rocket Park.
A sublime finale to our last full day at SpaceU!
Graduation day began with an invigorating talk by retired astronaut Brian Duffy, a veteran of four space flights on the Atlantis, Endeavor and Discovery space shuttles. A formal ceremony followed and students graduated with their SpaceU certificates! Two Kristin teams received ribbons for their rocket and Martian habitat. The afternoon followed with some retail therapy at an outlet mall.
In week 2, the CASE program is based at the hotel and other sites around Houston.
After a week of very early starts to get to JSC in Houston rush hour traffic, it was a very welcome relief to wake up at 7am today! Before breakfast we began with Energy Zone - dancing to energise us for the day.
We reflected on our experience at JSC in Expression Zone and started to explore the 7 success principles and values for life. We also got to work on ChallengeX - our mission to propose a solution for space junk. Some more retail-therapy this afternoon at the Gallaria Mall to buy friends and family some Christmas presents.
Our after-dinner speaker tonight was Kristie Davis, Advanced Spacesuit Engineer at JSC, with an interesting talk on material science and engineering behind these spacesuits (which are essentially mini-spacecraft of their own) and developments in this area.
We continued with exploring the success principles and ChallengeX as well as visited the University of Houston - looking around colleges and dorms. The evening was a highlight for many of us as we went to the Toyota Center for an NBA game. We got to see the Houston Rockets pre-game warmup up close before finding dinner in the food outlets. Everyone loved the thrilling game where the Rockets came from behind to beat the San Antonio Spurs 109 to 107! Go the Rockets!
Today followed a similar start but with a visit to the delicious Cheesecake Factory for lunch. Then we visited the Ad Astra Rocket Company where they are developing plasma rocket propulsion using VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket). This will be able to provide a small thrust for a long duration of time unlike chemically-powered propulsion and will allow humans to travel much further in space.
Many scientists worked for decades to make their dream come true and was a good example of one of the 7 Success Principles: Dream Big and Commit to it.
We had our semi-final for ChallengeX and the Kristin team of Zoe, Nate, Shirley & Edward were selected to present their space-junk solution in the final. We also visited Hermann Park and went to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences to design a spacesuit glove that can pass survive heat, radioactivity, puncture and dexterity testing.
The evening culminated in the ChallengeX final and our team were runners up! Afterwards we had a Winter Wonderland party - great food, great music and interesting dancing!
Today we enjoyed a little Houston history at Sam Houston Park. Our tour guide was hilarious and everyone had a great time. We returned to HMNS to explore the exhibits and take part in a mission to the Moon and on to Mars simulation. And yes, we had to say it: “Houston, we have a problem”!
Today we had our graduation ceremony from CASE Space School, thanked our outstanding group managers Jamie and Liz and began our journey home. A quick stop at a huge Walmart for some last minute bargains before checking in at the airport.