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Space Camp 2023


In 2022, when the 2023 Space Camp Tour was officially announced, the tour was booked out in 10 minutes. As one of the organisers of this camp, I felt heartened by the overwhelming response. I also knew, that taking 120 students and 14 staff members to four different states in the USA was going to present many incredible and memorable highlights, as well as some unexpected and unforeseen challenges.  

The tour started in New York, the city that never sleeps and it appears that neither did some of our students, such was their excitement. We visited the United Nations building where the tour guides took us on a brief “journey through the corridors of international diplomacy”. The guides appeared suitably impressed with our boys’ extensive knowledge of the workings of the United Nations. We walked the High Line – an elevated public park – where we admired the distinctive artwork, enjoyed the unique shrubbery where the industrial and the natural world converge, rested at the amphitheatre and consumed flavoursome culinary delights at Chelsea Market. The boys marvelled at the Statue of Liberty, despite the dense fog and in the evening, they showed their good humour when visibility was extremely poor on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Like I said: unforeseen challenges. 

Our next stop was Washington DC. We visited Capitol Hill, the various Smithsonian museums, and Lincoln Memorial…just to name a few. The boys appreciated the importance of these buildings and respected their roles in America’s history; however, as sports loving Australians, their favourite part of our DC tour, was the NBA game. Melbourne High’s adopted team, ‘The Washington Wizards’, unexpectedly beat Miami Heat in a close and entertaining game. The spectacle that is an American basketball game, lived up to its reputation and the boys immersed themselves in the merriment of the celebration. They even walked away with a free t-shirt. 

In Huntsville Alabama, the boys settled into Space Camp. Their introduction to Space Camp was a mixture of trepidation, excitement and wonderment. It was novel to them and the expressions on their faces suggested so. On arrival, the boys were given instructions by their camp leaders and were settled into their rooms for the night. Each day presented a new challenge. The boys were exposed to astronaut training techniques using equipment from NASA’s astronaut program, they took part in activities that simulated real life space missions, including the F-15 simulator, they launched the rockets they had been assembling and went scuba diving. Although some of the boys were challenged at first, they found the experience overwhelmingly rewarding and felt it was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.  

In Orlando we were greeted with tropical conditions, reminiscent of Queensland’s weather. The boys loved their iFly (indoor skydiving) experience, where they geared up for the opportunity to fly in the vertical wind tunnels. With the help of an instructor and the wind tunnel, the boys safely floated in the air for one minute, experiencing the adrenaline rush usually reserved for outdoor skydivers. To the amusement of the boys, five staff members bravely took part in the activity and were met with resounding applause after they finished. In the afternoon, we were treated to an amazing activity: airboat rides through the swamps. We raced across the water surface at reasonably high speeds, admiring the lush shoreline and the wildlife, including bald eagles, alligators and blue grey herons. All I could hear after the rides were the comments: “that was awesome’; “can we do it again?”, “that was the best” and “I loved it”.  

At Kennedy Space Centre we discovered what makes space travel “out of this world”. We learnt about the early space programs, NASA’s space pioneers, toured and discovered the historic significance of the space shuttle Atlantis and were moved by the beautiful tribute to the astronauts who lost their lives living out their dream. Our final day in Orlando was spent at Universal studios and Harry Potter World where the boys took full advantage of all the theme park had to offer.  

On a final note, I must say how pleased I was with the boys and their willingness to embrace all that was put to them over the two weeks. They immersed themselves in all the activities and welcomed opportunities to step out of their comfort zones. I have no doubt that memories of this trip will bring them great joy over the years.  

Rob Sette 

Junior Sub-School Leader