In July we gathered many from the Alumni family for our inaugural Space Camp Alumni Festival, and we are happy to report it was a tremendous success!
This year’s Alumni Festival was a first in several respects: the first full weekend of activities designed exclusively for the reconnection and enjoyment of Space Camp and Aviation Challenge program Alumni, the first Alumni-oriented event to be financially self-sustaining, and the first Alumni event to be planned and executed…by Alumni! While we were at it – we raised over $15,000 for Space Camp Scholarships during this, our inaugural year.
For three days we had an awe-inspiring gathering of insightful, passionate, and engaged Alumni.
We kicked off the 3- day event with Biergarten – affectionately known as ‘Stein and Dine’ where guests were able to enjoy German cuisine and beer under the Saturn V! In conjunction with Biergarten, early arriving guests were treated to a special Alumni Weekend edition of the ‘Pass the Torch’ lecture series normally held at the USSRC throughout the year. During that event we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope and the upcoming launch and deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope with several excellent speakers, including former Space Shuttle Astronaut Scott Altman, the Commander of the last two Hubble servicing missions.
We honored the legacy and impact of a 25 year-young Aviation Challenge Program and we reveled in the history and inspiration of our F-14 ‘Mighty Tomcat’ as we admired her shiny restored appearance and rededicated her for another tour of inspiring the next generations. We were so happy to have former Naval Aviators and Space Shuttle Astronauts Capt Robert ‘Hoot’ Gibson, USN(Ret) and Capt Scott ‘Scooter’ Altman, USN(Ret) join us to celebrate. Guests then moved on to enjoy the ‘Hangout’ with several of the most popular activities / simulators at the Aviation Challenge compound.
The Alumni family gathered to unwind at a Friday evening Pool Party under the stars, and then came together again for a Saturday morning Town Hall Breakfast to hear about where we are and where we’re going.
And while we were at it we recognized a few of our best and brightest Alumni, as well as a few key USSRC staff members, with some well deserved awards! Those awards included:
Dan Oates – CEO Leadership Award
John Ratnaswamy – Space Camp Spirit Award
Chris Key – Space Camp Pinnacle Award
Vincent Vazzo – Space Camp Foundations Award
Alyssa Carson – Outstanding Alumni Award
Abigail Harrison – Outstanding Alumni Award
Sandra Kerby – Delta-V Award
Amber Williams – Delta-V Award
Trevor Daniels – Delta-V Award
Brenda Carr – Chairman’s Award
We could not have succeeded without each of their unique contributions. It was truly a favorite moment of the weekend – likely second only to what was to come that evening!
We were treated to a sneak peak of the USSRC’s newest exhibit ‘Science on Orbit’, and the future for the Mission Center Complex Training Center Floor with tour guides including current Space Camp Hall of Fame members supporting the International Space Station as well as former astronauts Capt. Robert ‘Hoot’ Gibson, Col. Bob Springer, Capt. Wendy Lawrence, and our own Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger – the first Space Camp Alumni to fly in space!
After the impressive VIP tour it was time to get down to business during ‘Choose Your Mission’ with simulated Shuttle launch and landing sequences in the familiar simulators, and the iconic Astronaut Simulators including the Multi-Axis Trainer, 1/6 Gravity Chair, and the Manned Maneuvering Unit. Of course a training iteration wouldn’t be complete without a chance to dive in the Underwater Astronaut Trainer! And yes – we had real astronauts as simulator coaches!
Late Saturday afternoon we were treated to a special presentation by former Shuttle Astronaut Dr. Rhea Seddon and afforded the opportunity to get our own signed copy of her new book ‘Go For Orbit’ – and you’ll never guess who was first in line!! What a perfect transition into the exciting evening events.
As part of the evening events we heard from Todd May, Program Manager for NASA’s Space Launch System – updating us on the status and road ahead for NASA’s Journey to Mars. Prior to his introduction we shared a special message to the NASA and contractor community from the Alumni Community – with a little help from Camp Trainees attending sessions that week. Take a look – We think you’ll agree with the sentiment expressed in the video:
We inducted four new members into the Space Camp Hall of Fame – Sponsored by Orbital ATK. The Class of 2015 was an impressive array of Alumni – spanning manned and unmanned space exploration, engineering, and this year we adding the ‘A’ to STEAM with an Alumna from the arts. NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins, NASA-Mars Curiosity Flight Director Bobak Ferdowsi, Honeywell Aerospace Senior Project Engineer Elizabeth Bierman, and Opera Soprano Susanna Phillips represent all we aspire to be as a community of dreamers and achievers. Learn more about this year’s inductees here!
We ended on a truly high note! The first ever concert held in Shuttle Park featuring The Yacht Rock Revue™ with guest Amy McCarley culminated a fabulous celebration of all Space Camp Alumni who are the promise for the future of these programs and of the next trainees to pass through its’ doors.
The 2015 Space Camp Alumni Festival is just a preview of what’s yet to come for Alumni events and more broadly a great ‘end to the beginning’ of the full impact the Alumni Association has yet to realize. There are exciting announcements on the horizon regarding 2016. Next year’s festival is an event you won’t want to miss – with a host of phenomenal surprises. You will also hear about a very special campaign we’ll be launching in conjunction with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Foundation that will truly change the lives of many young people. Watch for those announcements coming this fall.
Please enjoy the highlights video below from this year’s Festival and we’ve also included a second video covering the full Space Camp Hall of Fame ceremony.
We look forward to seeing you around Camp and we hope you’ll consider getting involved with Alumni activities in some fashion in the near future.
On behalf of the entire Alumni Advancement Board as well as the staff and leadership of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, thanks to our sponsors for this year’s and event, and most of all we thank you for all your support and encouragement to date. You are the ‘fuel in our tanks’ and we can confidently now say that ‘we have cleared the tower’ under power from YOU! The thrust of 700,00 dreamers now has us on a fast ascent to the stars!
Ad Astra Per Alas Fideles!