Space Camp at U.S. Space & Rocket CenterUpdated: March 21, 2021
Space Camp is located at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center which serves as the official NASA Visitor Center for Marshall Space Flight Center. Space Camp operates year-round in Huntsville, Alabama, and uses astronaut training techniques to engage trainees in “real-world applications of STEM subjects”.
Students attend Space Camp in residence, living in spaces designed to replicate living conditions aboard the International Space Station. The Space Camp official site describes the program as an “unparalleled environment to spur imagination while being surrounded by space, aviation and defense artifacts”.
Space Camp has evolved quite a bit since the early days in 1982. Today it is officially known as the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp. At one time there were multiple locations including the original in Huntsville, but also in California and Florida. Those two additional locations suffered financial difficulties and both closed in 2002. The Huntsville Space Camp did not close and offers a variety of age-specific programs ranging in duration from three days to an approximately one full week depending on the program and availability.
A Brief History Of Space Camp
In 1986, a Hollywood summer movie Space Camp exposed an entire generation to the concept of going to an outer space-themed summer camp.
The film, directed by Harry Winer and starring Kate Capshaw and Lea Thompson, was inspired by (and portions were shot in) the real Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama which began in 1982 as a summer program to promote math and science to children.
During World War Two, German rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun was brought to the United States to work in the United States ballistic missile program. After the war ended, Von Braun relocated to Huntsville, Alabama (the future home of Space Camp) to continue his work on rocketry and related space technology.
His efforts resulted in many of the earliest satellites (Sputnik excluded, of course) and the Saturn V rocket that brought American astronauts to the moon.
Von Braun submitted a proposal to the Alabama legislature regarding the creation of a museum with the help of both NASA and the U.S. Army Missile Command; that resulted in the creation of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville; it opened its’ doors in 1970.
Seven years later Von Braun was touring the center with Edward O. Huckabee. The two noticed groups of children studying the exhibits there; Von Braun remarked that America was full of camps for a variety of activities. He is quoted as wondering aloud, “Why don’t we have a science camp?”
It wouldn’t be long before that idea came to fruition. Space Camp opened in Huntsville in 1982 using the American space program as a way to promote the study of math and science; the program eventually brought attendees from every state in the Union, and more from other countries.
According to the Space Camp official website, the program has educated more than 750,000 people since it began. Space Camp alumni include members of NASA and the European Space Agency
Does NASA Run Space Camp?
The National Aeronautics And Space Administration, better known as NASA, offers a spring/summer Space Camp type program from its’ Florida location known as Camp Kennedy Space Center.
These programs are identified on the NASA official site as being separate from the Huntsville Space Camp; NASA’s Kennedy Space Center program includes a half-day program for adults called the Astronaut Training Experience.
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center where Space Camp is based is a state-owned facility operated by the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission.
Will I Get To Try A Flight Simulator In Space Camp?
Depending on the individual Space Camp program, flight experience simulators, lunar lander simulators, multi-axis trainers, and 1/6th Gravity Chair experiences may be available. These options have height and weight restrictions. Some simulators may require a doctor’s approval.
Space Camp Programs
U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp breaks its’ programs up into a variety of fields including:
Space Camp Program Structure And Activities
Space Camp has programs for specific age groups including (but not limited to) the following:
6 days, 5 nights
- Simulation training (including 1/6th Gravity Chair and the Multi-Axis Trainer)
- Model rocket building
- Designing space colonies
- Mars exploration and rocketry
- Water-based training activities
- Nightly competitions
6 days, 5 nights
- Missions to the International Space Station, the moon or Mars
- Simulation training (1/6th Gravity Chair and the Multi-Axis Trainer)
- Team rocket building/launch projects.
- Area 51 Challenge Course
- Engineering design challenges
Advanced Space Academy
6 Days, 5 nights
- Simulation training (1/6th Gravity Chair, Multi-Axis Trainer, jet aircraft simulators)
- Team rocket design, launch, and recovery projects
- Area 51 Challenge Course
- SCUBA diving in the Underwater Astronaut Trainer (Physician approval required)
- Engineering Challenges (heat shield and Rover design)
- Mission To Mars simulation
Adult Space Academy
Ages 18 and up
3 days, 2 nights
- Simulation training (Multi-Axis Trainer)
- Rocket construction and launch projects
- Team building experiences in the Low Elements Ropes Course
- Engineering projects
- Extended-duration simulated mission
There are also Space Camp programs for groups including Scout programs, and Corporate Team Building. Space Camp’s offerings include non-space themed experiences including:
- Aviation (Mach 1, a five-day “aviation-themed adventure” is just one of many options)
- Robotics (Robotics Camp and Robotics Academy, plus a Day Camp option)
- Cyber (U.S. Cyber Camp)
A shorter, family-oriented version of Space Camp is also available so parents can attend with their children; this shorter version (Family Space Camp) is three days and two nights for at least one adult and accompanying children from seven to 18 years old.
Who May Attend Space Camp?
There are week-long programs for all attendees ages nine through 18. There are also Space Camp programs for families for ages seven through 100 according to the official site. Adult Space Camp programs are for those 18 or older.
Space Camp programs are open to visitors worldwide, but the official site cautions that all programs are conducted in English and that proficiency in English is a requirement to attend.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp Address And Contact Information
Space Camp is located at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, One Tranquility Base Huntsville, AL 35805. You can reach Space Camp by telephone at 1-800-637-7223.
Military Space Camp Scholarships And Alternatives
Various branches of the United States military and affiliated organizations have offered scholarships in the past to qualifying students to offset the cost of attending the official Space Camp in Huntsville. These scholarship programs are not always available (much depends on whether funding is available in a given fiscal year) but recent military scholarship options have included:
- Air Force Youth Programs Space Camp Scholarships, intended for qualifying military dependents.
- Air, Space, and Missile Defense Organization Space Camp Scholarships, open to qualifying military dependents assigned to specific MajComs (major commands).
- The Military Child Education Coalition Bernard Curtis Brown II Memorial Space Camp Scholarship, for military dependents in grades six through nine.
There is also an official Space Camp Scholarship program available.
In addition to the original Space Camp, a variety of alternative programs with similar emphasis are offered by the Department of Defense and various branches of the U.S. Military.
- DoD StarBase is a Defense Department program operating all over the United States, designed to offer elementary school children opportunities to learn more about STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). These StarBase programs may vary depending on location and are not specifically space-themed, but do include similar features to Space Camp including an emphasis on aerodynamics, engineering, navigation, and STEM-based careers on military installations. You can find a StarBase program near you using an interactive map.
- Teen Aviation Camps have been offered by various Air Force Bases including programs at the Joint Base Lackland in San Antonio, Texas and at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado as funding and mission requirements permit.
- Air Force Services Activity Child and Youth Programs advertise a Space Camp program held at the official Space Camp facility at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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