Shoot for the Stars: Part Three

For the past two days Gene Birk has told us how NASA uses Space Camp to excite you about future adventures in space but Space Camp can also enrich your life, through teambuilding and leadership training at Corporate Camp.

Every kid wants to go to Space Camp but some of us have to wait a little longer for the opportunity. Brandon Lokits and I finally got our chance last month and we met a young man who never did get to go to camp as a child but he’s making up for it now.

“The man helping Brandon strap in is Marlon Hill, known as “Stunts” here at Space Camp. A great job for him, a dream come true for a young boy who always wanted to come to space camp but could never afford it,” Gene introduced.

“My parents kind of thought it was a lost dream and I ended up being here for school at Huntsville and one of my friends like you’d be great at this job and I was like, ‘okay, I do need the money ... let’s try it out’ and I came, and the more they started training me I was like, ‘this was my childhood dream, to actually come here to Space Camp.’ Instead of comin’ here for a week like the kids, I get to work here and be here everyday. So it’s my dream and then some,” Hill said and he is definitely good at it.

He’s at the controls of this multi-axis trainer. He’s bouncing us around the moon in one-sixth gravity. He’s our anchor in the five-story wall climb and he’s our instructor as we learn to fly the shuttle.

Some half-a-million children have gone through Space Camp and “Stunts” has seen many of them blossom before his eyes.

“Back at their school, if they’re bullied, picked on ... if they’re not in the cool group because they don’t have new clothes or new shows, sometimes they come here with their head hangin’ low and after a while they realize this is a place you can reinvent yourself, discover new things about yourself and about other people and they go back with a higher self-esteem. I love it. It’s great,” Hill said and with that new attitude, you can do anything, even fly the space shuttle.

Once in orbit, our payload specialists repair the Hubble telescope. They experience near weightlessness in their space suits as they hover over the floor trying to maneuver themselves and the huge piece they must repair.

Meanwhile, my pilot and I are troubleshooting on the flight deck. Then it was time to pack up and go home. The computer guided us down through the atmosphere but once the runway was in sight, they turned the controls over to me and I landed the shuttle just using the joystick.

Commanding the space shuttle Endeavor was a dream come true.

“A lot of times we have dreams of being great things or doing great things. You don’t realize all the support people needed to make those things happen. I’m just glad to be a part of that support group. So I guess the moral is, stick to your dream,” Hill said.

So NASA’s Space Camp is much more than just a place for kids to play astronaut. It can be a life-changing experience where children and adults alike can gain self-esteem by learning to solve problems and overcome adversities they might never have thought they could.

So get connected to www.spacecamp.com, where you’ll find videos and programs, even applications for the kids camps, adult camps, combination camps and corporate camps.

It truly is a place to shoot for the stars, no matter where your life leads.

To see more information on Space Camp and read up on the benefits of attending, click here.


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