Outer space revealed in NASA visit

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian

It’s not easy for Earth-bound Geraldton residents to experience a week in the life of an astronaut, but one John Willcock College science teacher came close during her recent visit to a NASA-run space camp.

Hollie Roberts was one of three teachers in Western Australia to attend NASA’s Advanced Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama, home of the US Government’s largest civilian rocket and spacecraft research centre.

Ms Roberts said after the long flight from Australia to the US, the jet-lagged space cadets were immediately put on a schedule of 7am starts and 9pm finishes.

“We were all so tired from the jet lag, but we were straight into it,” she said.

The space enthusiast enjoyed a week jammed with activities designed to simulate the effects of space and the jobs of astronauts, including building model Mars rovers and rockets.

She successfully landed an F15 aircraft in a simulator, designed mission badges, went zip-lining, participated in multiple team-building exercises, and enacted a scene in a life-sized model of the International Space Station.

Ms Roberts also underwent high g-force training to simulate high speed space travel, whereby she was placed in a centrifuge which spun until she reached conditions five times normal gravity — the highest acceleration NASA allows for the typical civilian.

She said the most terrifying experiences, however, were the ones that simulated microgravity.

“There’s this thing called the pamper pole, and they call it that because you’ll need a nappy as it’s scary enough for you to wet yourself,” she said.

“You climb to the top of a telephone pole and jump off.

“You’re wearing your harness but it’s still terrifying.”

“We went scuba diving too.

“They put you in this massive tank which is about 24ft deep.

“It’s to simulate weightlessness, and it’s so hard to work on things when you’re down there in the water, especially because you’re not wearing flippers.”

Ms Roberts said she hoped to apply the knowledge in the classroom.

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