Utah teens reach for the stars at Space CampOct 04, 2021 12:12PM ● By Karmel Harper
Teens learn about STEM fields and space exploration. Photo courtesy of Ginger Healy.
By Karmel Harper | [email protected]
Fifteen-year-old teens Eliana (Ellie) Healy from Herriman and her best friend Meisyn Ellison from Cedar City have always been interested in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Healy would like to be a veterinarian and Ellison wants to be an astrophysicist. Five years ago, Healy and her two brothers attended Space Camp® and loved it. When the chance to attend Space Camp® again arose, this time with her best friend Meisyn, Healy jumped at the opportunity. Ellison has a degenerative disease and uses a wheelchair. Healy’s mother, Ginger, said, “It was going to be Ellie and Meisyn at Space Camp® in March 2020 but then COVID hit. It was so disappointing for the girls, especially because Meisyn’s health is so vulnerable. So they were thrilled when they were finally able to go in July of 2021. I went along as Meisyn’s caregiver to help as she requires assistance.”
The girls attended Advanced Space Academy at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. The Rocket Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s Official Visitor Center. The week-long educational program promotes science, technology, engineering and math while training students with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and problem solving. This program is specifically designed for trainees who have a passion for space exploration. Students sleep in quarters designed to resemble the International Space Station and train in simulators like those used by NASA.
Healy and Ellison spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated space mission to theISS, the Moon or Mars. The crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extravehicular activity, or spacewalk. The girls returned to earth in time to graduate with honors.
Almost 1 million trainees have graduated from a Space Camp® program since its inception in 1982, including European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA astronauts Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Dr. Kate Rubins, Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Christina Koch, who set the record for the longest duration space flight by a female. Children and teachers from all 50 states and almost 150 international locations have attended a Space Camp® program.
Healy said, “My favorite part of the Advanced Space Academy was participating in the mission challenges. There were 15 kids on my team and we each had a role on every mission that we had to act out using real space equipment and modules. I got to be a flight engineer on the ISS where I conducted experiments and made sure everything was working correctly . On my next mission I was a mission specialist and had to repair a satellite. It was scary because I was hung from a cable while figuring out which parts needed to be fixed . My favorite mission challenge role was in mission control on a mission to Mars where I had a lot of problems and challenges thrown at me that I had to handle, like sick astronauts throwing up on me, a fire , and a dust storm. They were all simulated problems but the stress felt real and it was so much fun to act it all out. I learned so much, had lots of fun, and made new friends at Space Camp®.”
When the Healy family moved to Herriman from Cedar City last year, it was devastating for Eliana and Meisyn. But they continue to talk daily and enjoy trips together. This journey to the stars the pair enjoyed this summer is an adventure they will never forget.