The Kids at Ed Buckbee's Alabama Camp Aren't Spaced Out—They're Just High on Rocketry

updated 08/08/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/08/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Dear Aunt Betsy,

This U.S. Space Camp is really great! I was kinda worried at first when I found out they signed up 100 kids for these week-long sessions here at Huntsville, but they know how to keep us moving.

The camp is part of the Alabama Space and Rocket Center, near the Marshall Space Flight Center, where some of the first NASA rockets were developed. All of us are 12 to 14 and had to come with recommendations from our science teachers. Edward Buckbee worked for NASA before he started the camp last year. He says that someday we'll be members of "the first space-flying generation." He wants us to get an early start.

Sunday was orientation. They broke us up into 10 teams named after the sun and the planets. (I'm in the Mars group.) On Monday our team leaders—they're college kids—taught us how rockets are built, fueled and launched. It was fun learning about Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in 1969, the year I was born! Tuesday we tried on real space suits and found out how astronauts get oxygen and what they eat. I liked the freeze-dried ice cream, but Heather Deneke (she's 12 and from Clanton, Ala.) said it was "awful."

Wednesday was "zero gravity" day, and we got to use a "moon walk trainer" like NASA's—that's a seat on a spring that lets you move along while bouncing up and down or side to side.

Thursday we launched plastic and balsa-wood rockets we built ourselves. Some went as high as 500 feet. They carried crickets, but not many of these cricketnauts made it back alive. Today we're dividing into crews for the space shuttle and Mission Control, and we'll get to use NASA equipment to simulate a flight. Then we get diplomas and these super astronaut wings.

Mr. Buckbee, he's 42, really knows a lot of stuff. He worked for Wernher von Braun doing PR when Dr. Von Braun was developing rockets here in the '60s. Mr. Buckbee says in a few years, when the NASA shuttles "camp" in orbit for long periods and kids now my age will be flying them, "that's when Space Camp will really pay good dividends." I told Mom and Dad the $250 was worth it!

Altogether 1,400 kids will be at camp this summer, and most of us want to come back next year, so Mr. Buckbee is planning a program for 15-and 16-year-olds. Would you put in a good word for me with Mom and Dad? Okay? Please??

Love,
Vanessa

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