Friday, July 03, 2009

Guest Post: How Space Camp Changed My Life

Every once in a while, I plan on asking guest bloggers to stop by and answer the question: what's the geekiest thing you've ever done? The Modern Gal, one of my very favorite bloggers, agreed to kick things off for us in style with her ode to Space Camp. Please welcome...The Modern Gal!

A good test of a gal's nerd factor is to find out if she has ever in her life wanted to be an astronaut. I mean everyone in their right mind should want to be an astronaut at some point in his or her life ... space is so cool and space-like! And rockets! And cool space suits!

During my late childhood I was convinced I was going to be an astronaut and was ready to take every step necessary to becoming one, down to aspiring to be an aerospace or mechanical engineering major. But first things first, I had to go to Space Camp.

I wish I could say it was like the movie (which I know we've all seen, right? Right?), but alas, it was not. First of all, neither Kate Capshaw nor any real astronaut was an instructor there. Also, we were at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., which while located dangerously close to a place where they design and build rockets offered no opportunity for an accidental launch into space aboard the shuttle. And I saw no Tom Skerritt, which, you know, swoon. (Can I get a Nerd Man of the Month shout out?)

Anyway, there was still enough to stimulate my nerdiness. Your team “trained” trained for two missions, competed in a space trivia bowl, designed robots and watched space movies at the IMAX theater. At the end of the week, the team that's done the best wins (wins what, I don't remember), but I'm proud to say my team won, aided especially by our sweep of the space triva bowl competions. (Do you know how many astronauts flew on shuttle mission 51-L? I did because I'd already written a paper on that mission for school. The answer is seven for future reference, and may they all rest in peace.)

But here's the thing you need to know about gals and Space Camp. Not all of the female Space Campers were there because they were nerds like you and I. Some were there because their rich parents wanted to get rid of their bratty butts for a week. This is a problem because these gals don't mix well with nerds. Instead, they want to make fun of them, which is exactly what happened when two of these preteen punks ended up in a room with another nerd and myself.

I chose to ignore the obnoxious gals. I had more important things on my mind, like studying for the trivia bowl and the cute nerdy boys on our team, so they left me alone. Unfortunately, they did not leave the other nerdy gal alone and their teasing got so bad that one of the boys on our team told the instructors. But when the time came for punishment, somehow I got dragged in as an accomplice. The other two girls cried as I sat there looking confused. I didn't know why I was there and became upset only when I was asked why I wasn't showing remorse and realized I had no clue what the word remorse meant. When I got home from camp, I looked it up in the dictionary and got mad, because it was then I realized I had no reason to show remorse.

Which is probably why I abandoned my dream of the astronaut. And am now a writer.


-(the) Jim said...

although I am not a girl, I SO wanted to go to space camp when I was a kid. I am so jealous of people I meet who went to it.

The closest I got was going to the Kennedy space center once, and watching the movie 'space camp' over and over :)

Allie said...

Oh! I wanted to go to Space Camp so badly! That is awesome. Although, it sucks that they thought you were in on the bullying.

TLH said...

I always wanted to go to Space Camp! Instead I ended up at the County Parks & Rec Summer Camp at the lake for two weeks...

As you may know, young nerd girls do NOT work well with lots of heat, bugs, and physical activities. They should've called it Hell on Earth Camp.

DropEdge said...

SpaceCamp is still somewhere in my personal top 20 favorite movies. ("I know this arm like the back of my hand!") That was way back when Joaquin was still Leaf Phoenix and not all with the unkempt beard and bad rapping and bat-shit craziness.

The Modern Gal said...

I did not even think about the Joaquin/Leaf Phoenix connection. Yes, some things were much better in the 80s.

Anonymous said...

I never even knew there was such a thing as Space Camp, and I'm so jealous of anyone who was able to attend one. Trust me when I say that spoiled obnoxious brats are foisted on every variety of camp, generally making the experience miserable for the other kids who are there because they're actually interested in... get this... OMG... **camping!**

crone51 said...

My kid so very much wanted to go to space camp. We couldn't afford it until she was too old to want to go anymore. Anyhow, she decided against the astronaut route as she throws up on roller coasters.

Corenn said...

Oh man, I went to the teenage-level Space Camp (called Advanced Academy) in Huntsville, and it was AWESOME. More involved shuttle and station missions, SCUBA training and an under-water simulated zero-g mission, physics competitions, and a joint activity with the Air Force Camp kids simulating a parachute drop and helicopter rescue (for when your escape pod lands in the ocean, y'know).

Fun fact for those who will never get to go: when you died on missions, the way to "re-spawn" was to do a dance on the closed-circuit museum TV for a couple minutes. Somewhere, out in the world, there are 50-100 strangers who have seen me dance the Funky Chicken in order to come back to life and complete a mission.

While it was all a little scary at the time, it was CRAZY fun, and it also served the very important purpose of showing me that as much as I wanted to be an astronaut, it actually wasn't for me. I didn't want it the way some of my teammates did. They were actually good at math, for example. And they knew their NASA facts like nobody's business.

So it was the best kind of life experience in that it fulfilled one of my greatest dreams, while at the same time it gently directed me away from a path that would have broken my heart in the long run.

Plus, I got to keep my flight suit.

You rock, Space Camp. The end.

Anonymous said...

I'm going this summer and I was wondering what I might need to know... I'm sorry for what you went through and hey, writing rocks! I plan to be a journalist or work for NASA when I come of age... Also, I would of told them the exact truth once you knew you were going to leave... I'm a total nerd to so don't feel lonely there either!