By Desmen Boykin (7th grade Graham Park Middle)
I want to share a story about my space adventure. This is not a typical adventure about science fiction, aliens, spaceships or the other things that people my age usually like. This is a different kind of an adventure, one about gaining knowledge and confidence to pursue a future in space exploration and about the International Space Station.
Sunday, May 7th 2017
It all began on a cool spring day in early May. I do not like admitting it, but I had begged my mother to not make me go to space camp. At that time, I was not interested in learning about space exploration, especially on a Saturday. And, I did not know how I would meet new friends or compete in the science competition to be held at the end of the camp. However, little did I know that it would be one of the most exciting experiences of my life.
On this first day I begrudgingly walked into the building where the space camp was being held and a kind gentleman greeted me and the other campers, whom had formed a small group in the lobby. We were then escorted to an elevator that took us to the floor where the camp was being held. I went into the classroom and saw many others my age sitting and waiting for the class to begin. I was nervous about who I should sit next to but I chose a random seat and waited patiently for everyone to arrive. The class began with an introduction about Higher Orbits and its program “Go For Launch”. Higher Orbits mission is to promote science, technology, engineering and math; as well as leadership, teamwork, and communication through the use of spaceflight.
After the introduction, an astronaut named Frank Culbertson Jr., told us about his experiences as an astronaut and about space exploration. Afterwards, we divided into small groups where I met Steven, Shashank and Savar who were to be my new teammates. As soon as we formed into groups, we had a team-skills competition which required us to think outside the box. The objective of the competition was to see who could build the tallest tower using only the materials on the table.
Later they told us that each of our teams had to create both a team name and logo. But when we heard this, we had a hard time agreeing on our team name and logo. Eventually we agreed on the name “Operation Galaxy” and our logo consisted of a galaxy like shape with all of our names at a corner of that galaxy.
Saturday, May 13th, 2017
After we designed our logo, we were asked to come up with an idea for an experiment and prepare a presentation. After going back and forth over a few ideas, we finally agreed on a topic for the experiment – “What would happen to mealworms in microgravity?” Everyone on my team was excited to find the answer to this question so we researched several areas related to the question. Afterwards, we worked on a slide show presentation using our research, pictures and diagrams that would fully explain our ideas to the judges. We were hopeful and eager at having a chance to have our experiment sent to space.
Sunday, May 14th, 2017
This was the day of the competition and we were given about one hour to make the final touches to our presentation. Our only problem was in deciding where we should stand and who would present which slide. Eventually we came to an agreement on this too.
When it was time for the teams to begin sharing their presentations, we were very nervous after hearing the other presentations. They were all very good. Nevertheless, when it was time for our presentation, we spoke loudly, clearly, and made eye contact with the judges.
When everyone finished, the judges had all the students go upstairs for lunch because they did not want us to hear what they are talking about. We returned about 30 minutes later, and the judges announced that our team was the winner! This was very shocking to us at first but eventually we were very proud and happy. We took a group photo with the teachers who sponsored the camp and received gift bags as an unexpected surprise. Now our experiment would go to a higher division to compete nationally!
Saturday, May 20th 2017-
Incredibly, one week later we found out that our team had won out of the entire national middle school division. We could not believe this was happening!
Sunday, May 28th 2017-
Our team gathered together at Top Golf to celebrate our victory.
Thursday, October 26th 2017-
We met at a teammates’ house so we could Skype with Ms. Michelle Lucas the founder of Higher Orbits and the Scientist who was preparing our experiment for space. She told us that several prototypes were made in order to find the right conditions for the mealworms. We also received more information about the launch date and briefing that we were to attend.
Friday, November 10th 2017
On the day that we arrived at Chincoteague Center we attended a briefing about the launch that was to take place the following day. The people who gave the briefing made it very interesting by using a slideshow and adding a bit of humor. Afterwards, we were invited to a special dinner reception with all the people from the briefing. I sat with my teammates at dinner and we decided to leave early so we could get a goodnights sleep for the following day.
Saturday, November 11th 2017- Launch Day (almost)
We woke up at 2:20 am and I barely had time for an early breakfast. We left from the Chincoteague Center on a police-escorted bus to the launch site. The weather was so cold that I had to put my arms inside my coat and shirt while I drank hot chocolate. We could see the clock counting down as all the necessary preparations were checked on the rocket. “1 minute and 6 seconds … 1 minute and 5 seconds” the clock read and then suddenly over the loud speaker I could hear “We have an aircraft in the hazard area …we have to abort go to the abort checklist! LOW Flying aircraft near the launch area! ABORT!” At 1 minute and 4 seconds the clock STOPPED! The whole flight was delayed. What a disappointment!
Sunday, November 12th 2017 (Launch Day) (Yes!!)
Since my family had already prepared to stay until Sunday, we planned to revisit the launch site. Once again we woke up very early in the morning in order to board the bus and when we arrived at the launch site we met with our teacher and Former Astronaut Frank Culbertson Jr. Once again the count down began, but this time it was not disappointing.
At 7:14 am the rocket took off into the sky. Although it took a moment for the sound to reach us, I could soon feel that the ground was rumbling underneath my feet and then the vibration could be felt through out my whole body. This was the day I had waited to see. Our experiment launched into space on Antares. It was not only an adventure about Space but a chance for me to gain knowledge about the International Space Station and gain the confidence that I can do anything….the sky is not the limit, it is the beginning of my adventure.