Seventh-Grader Trains Like an Astronaut

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Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

Genevieve Patterson, a rising seventh-grader at Lake Ridge Middle School, took a trip out of this world. Well, not really, but she did get to feel what it’s like to be in space while attending Space Academy at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Patterson’s family surprised her over winter break by sharing the news that she had been accepted. She raised about $1,000 to cover the costs by sending a video to family and friends soliciting for donations. She also made and sold baked goods to them.

Less than a week after school was out, her mom and stepdad made the 11-hour drive to drop her off at Space Academy.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center has been hosting various camps since 1982. Attendees enhance their communication, team-building, and leadership skills through various Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities. For six days and five nights, Patterson stayed at the center with other 12- to 14-year-old camp attendees training like an astronaut. Training included a ride on the one-sixth gravity chair, which simulates the moon’s gravitational pull, and the multi-axis trainer, which simulates the disorientation that astronauts feel as they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

Patterson’s interest in space exploration and STEM curriculum made this trip a dream come true. In addition to learning about Newton’s Laws, various jobs, and well-known contributors to the study of space, she participated in six-mock missions. “I truly loved doing the missions and I just thought it was the most fun thing. The first job I had to do was PAYCOM (Payload Communications Manager),” she said. PAYCOM is the one person who can communicate with the crew on the international space station.

During the second mission she served as the commanding mission specialist and did an extravehicular activity (EVA), defined as experimental activities completed by an astronaut outside of the spacecraft. This mission has inspired her to possibly pursue a career as a mission specialist for NASA.

Patterson enjoyed making new friends and hopes to convince her family to return to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center to attend Family Space Camp.


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