HUNTSVILLE – The birthplace of NASA’s rockets lies in the cotton country, hundreds of miles from Cape Canaveral launch plates.
From the first US satellites and astronauts, to Apollo Moon Shots, to space ferries and now NASA Ratschatthistoria, which is still in development, the rocket history of Huntsville, Alabama falls.
Huntsville’s nickname Rocket City is to a large extent thanks to Wernher von Braun and his team of German-born citizens who settled here in the 1950s. The city has long been home to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. But now it attracts new generations of engineers, scientists and technicians. Tourists come to the story. Children and adults will learn in Space Camp.
It was von Braun, Marshall’s first director, who wanted to showcase Huntsville’s rocket development and testing. Thus, the United States was the Space and Rocket Center, an official NASA tourist site that holds one of only three remaining Saturn V moon clouds, this a national historic landmark.
Von Braun also planted the seed for space camp. Why the band camps, soccer camps and cheerleading camps, but no science camp, he wondered. He did not live long enough to see space mode open in 1
982 in the rocket center, but since then, 800,000 youth and adult space fans have participated in day-long, weekend or week-long sessions with space, robotics and flight men.
Its address? A Quiet Base, Huntsville. As in “Houston, Tranquility Base here, Eagle has landed” words spoken by astronaut Neil Armstrong when he landed on the moon with Buzz Aldrin. The 50th anniversary of the first month’s step is next July. Huntsville plans to postpone thousands of small rockets in memory.
DNA from the United States original rocket force still permeates Huntsville, according to Deborah Barnhart, US Space and Rocket Centers CEO. It is Alabama’s first paid tourist attraction, with bus trips to the limited Redstone and Marshall, and wild rocket styles like Space Shot and G-Force Accelerator.
“We are all space geeks and we love it” Barnhart said.
But Hunstville is not just about history. Continuous research aims to return astronauts to the moon and on to Mars. “Looking at the future, really looks like traveling in space, trying to figure out the issues of living and working in space,” Barnhart says.
Despite Huntsville’s roll, author Homer Hickam, a longtime Huntsville resident who is now retired from NASA, Cape Canaveral, Florida and Houston get the most attention when it comes to space travel. Hickam’s 1998 memoir “Rocket Boys” became the movie “October Sky.”
“You look at this great great Saturn V, and the only part that Houston was responsible for was, I do not know. This little part right here,” said Hickam, laughing at pointing at the capsule on top of The 363 foot rocket extends horizontally in its massive exhibition hall.
German beer gardens are worth under Saturn V every Thursday evening, spring to fall. Engineers and their families recently mobbed. Drinks included T-Minus, a locally-prepared beer with mandarin. Monkeynaut brew is also a favorite.
“It’s probably the most scientific small town in America,” said Apollo Program Manager Billy Neal, a volunteer teacher who throws his white lab coat for that night’s beer garden.
Miss Baker, squirrel monkey preceded Mercury astronauts in space in 1959, is buried at the US Space and Rocket Center. Space Campers sometimes leave bananas on their tombstone.
Nearly 1000 campers from around the world swarmed the rocket center during a typical week this summer. They launched small rockets and felt they were in space while they hung from the roof of harness or diving in a water tank less but resembled what the astronauts once used to practice. They were fastened in a mock cockpit that came in for Mars landing and sat behind computers as flight controllers for the Mars mission. They also live in dorms that look like they belong to the moon or Mars.
Camp counselors – called crew educators – are mostly university students or graduates in STEM areas – science, technology, technology or math.
In July, campers were allowed to meet the first Space Camp candidate to actually launch in space, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. She attended a Space Academy for Older Students the same month as Shuttle Discovery delivered the Hubble Space Telescope to Orbit in 1990. She continued to fly Discovery 2010 as NASA astronaut teacher.
Space Camps simulations are “as realistic as they can be for what’s done in a week,” she said. “We can not train children on a lot of power switches and switches and systems, but we can give them the big idea.”
Her goal is to help campers “see what they did this week not so much different from what we did in the program and how it prepares you for real space … and then hopefully to provide some things that we all should go through rough times, but there are ways to keep in touch. “
When Metcalf Lindenburger shook hands with each of the nearly 1,000 candidates at the end of the week, another space camp student, Serena Aunon Chancellor, passed the ground aboard at the International Space Station. Roster of the Space Camp alumni includes many other engineers and researchers, including two others who lived at the Space Station and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who participated as an adult during his early technical days.
“This is a dirty hidden workforce development program,” said Barnhart. “We try to inspire people in VOTE.
She added: “These young people, here they go,” in outer space one day.
Can not create space? Visit Rocket City instead.
We try to inspire avid people, as well as robotic and cyber security specialists.