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Artemis I launch viewing party

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher as it rolls out of High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building for the first time to Launch Complex 39B, Thursday, March 17, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The US Space & Rocket Center is hosting a free public viewing party for the launch of Artemis I next week. This history-making launch is scheduled to happen the morning of Monday, Aug. 29, and everyone is invited to watch! Doors open at 5:30 a.m.

We’ll be showing the Artemis I launch on the giant video wall in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. This means we’ll be celebrating the launch of NASA’s mission to return explorers to the moon while standing beneath a Saturn V rocket – the rocket that took the first astronauts to the moon in 1969!

Artemis I is being carried by the Space Launch System – NASA’s most powerful launch vehicle. The SLS was designed to bring astronauts, robots, and supplies to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years. This heavy-lift launch vehicle is reconfigurable so that in the future, it can enable NASA to take on missions to other destinations like Mars. The Orion crew capsule will ride atop this giant rocket, bringing its total height to 322 feet tall.

Artemis I is an uncrewed mission that will be traveling farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown. After launch, Artemis I will orbit the Earth before spending two days traveling to the moon. Once there, it will enter a distant retrograde orbit that will take it 40,000 miles beyond the far side of the moon.

Over the course of 42 days, the Artemis I mission’s Orion crew capsule will travel 1.3 million miles before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego on October 10. The ship’s reentry will be faster and hotter than any spacecraft has ever experienced returning to Earth!

Though no humans will be on board this trip, the Orion Capsule will be carrying Commander Moonikin Campos, a mannequin wearing the Orion Crew Survival System suit. Moonikin is equipped with sensors collecting data on what future human crews might experience.

Artemis I will also be carrying several science experiments, Apollo artifacts, and a stuffed animal of Snoopy. Snoopy will serve as the mission’s zero gravity indicator and will float through the crew capsule once the spacecraft reaches the microgravity of space.

We invite everyone to join us at the US Space & Rocket Center on Aug. 29 to celebrate this momentous launch!

Space Camp Alumni Flying High Among Esteemed Pilots: Jason Tabor Alumni Story

Space Camp Alumni Flying High Among Esteemed Pilots 


Our Space Camp alumni are reaching great heights in careers all around the world, and Space Camp program alumnus Jason Tabor is no exception. His time at Space Camp and Aviation Challenge helped guide his passion for flying. Helping to cement his passion for flying and interest in making it a career. 

Growing up in Lexington, South Carolina Jason found his love of aviation at an early age and was fascinated with flying. His grandfather, an aviator himself, would take him flying as a child. Their flights together would ignite Jason’s interest in being a pilot himself and having an avid interest in learning more about flying aircraft. 

Preparing for Flight 

Jason found his way to Space Camp in 1989 and arrived at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center facility again for Aviation Challenge in 1992. These experiences helped to cement his love of aviation and fuel a passion for flying. His time at Space Camp was the first time away from home on his own, and he was able to build a confidence in his experiences at camp, knowing that he was meant to be in aviation. 


As a part of the Aviation Challenge, Jason was able to take part in activities that introduced him to many aeronautical concepts, including the chance to fly a basic simulator and demonstrate basic aerobatic maneuvers. His team at Aviation Challenge also flew model aircraft and spent time learning what it took to become a pilot. Learning survival skills, including the zip line into the lake, were one of his favorite activities at Aviation Challenge.  


Jason would go on to get his pilot’s license to fly small aircraft a few short years after his time at Aviation Challenge 

Having the ‘Right Stuff’ to Fly 

Flying planes isn’t without its challenges though. One experience in his youth found him piloting a Cessna 152 at the age of 18 that had engine trouble and required an emergency landing. He was trained for this exact scenario during his pilot trainings, although it is something you hope never happens. Jason successfully brought the plane to a landing in the middle of an empty field just north of a state park. An experience he would look back on later in his career and recall as being a foundation that, “Aviation is very safe, and the risks are mitigated through extensive training and preparation.” 


This training and preparation would continue to serve him well throughout his career. A good bit of passion helped as well. “I couldn’t focus on anything other than aviation and always dreamed of being paid to do something I enjoyed.”, said Jason when he spoke of his career path. 

He went on to graduate from EmbryRiddle Aeronautical University with a degree in Aeronautical Science. Jason flew night flights for the Federal Reserve Bank before moving into commercial airline service. When Jason joined United Airlines he had the opportunity to fly the Airbus 320, Boeing 737/757/767, and 777 model aircraft. Jason is also a volunteer with the Airline Pilots Association Mentor program and United Airlines Aviate program, to direct other pilots on their own path in aviation and meeting their personal goals. This breadth of experience led to become a full-time instructor in Denver for United Airlines in the Boeing 737 model aircraft.  


Paying it Forward as a Pilot Mentor 

Jason found a calling in mentoring and training other pilots. “The best part about being a mentor is seeing others succeed, and being able to witness that first hand.”  

And it also brought him back to his experiences at Space Camp and Aviation Challenge, that were at the beginning of it all. In his words, “Seeing others reach their goals not only makes them better, but makes me better simply by being in their presence.  My dad used to tell me to surround yourself with the best people, because they will continue to challenge you and bring you up.  I believe this was true when I attended Space Camp and Aviation Challenge and it is true in everything I do.  It is important to surround yourself with goal oriented successful individuals as they will be the ones that help bring your individual success to a new level. I am fortunate to work with the most amazing professionals that continue to challenge me and I continue to learn from others.” 

Jason is making a difference in aviation every day and helping new pilots set their course. We are honored to share this Space Camp alumni story, of a Space Camp alumnus achieving their goals and dreams through hard work and dedication to their craft.  

NASA Rover Named by Space Camp Alumnus from Virginia

The new name for the Mars 2020 Rover was announced on Thursday March 5, 2020 and the winning name was “Perseverance”. The winning rover name was submitted by Alexander Mather, a seventh grader from Virginia. Mather is also a Space Camp Alumnus, and credits his time at Space Camp for increasing his love of space and space science. Prior to attending camp, he had an interest in video games and technology, but Space Camp opened his interests to NASA and space science.

The name Perseverance came to him, because in other rover names we had covered the spirit of exploration with Spirit and Sojourner, but had thus far missed one essential ingredient of exploration – Perseverance.

Great job to this inspiring alumnus on picking a name for the new generation of exploration! We look forward to hearing about all of the discoveries that Perseverance finds on Mars, starting in 2021.

Find out more about Perseverance and Alexander Mather in the official NASA press release:

And more about the missions of Perseverance here:

Stay tuned for incredible images to come from the surface of Mars when Perseverance has its anticipated landing in February 2021. Perseverance is the largest, most advanced rover that NASA has ever sent to another world, thus making this a giant leap forward in the name of exploration. Images from the surface of Mars will be relayed with only an approximate 15 minute delay, giving real-time data back to Earth and creating a new database about this extraterrestrial world.

Teams at NASA’s JPL, or Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in California will over see the new rover, including many Space Camp Alumni working on the team. We will be following this story and its advancements in the coming months! The information gathered from this mission will be a stepping stone to future exploration, perhaps even by humans, on Mars.

Female Scientists Across the World Celebrate Women in Science Day

Tueday February 11th, 2020 was officially Women in Science Day, a day to commemorate the advancements of females in science, technology, engineering, math. The day not only acknowledges those that have paved the way for the current generation, but also salutes those that are currently making strides in scientific fields and serves as inspiration for the next generation of female scientists.

There were a number of Space Camp Alumna that celebrated Women in Science Day, in a variety of ways. Some took to Twitter to share inspiration – or even set straight some urban myths!

Beth Moses is the first female commerical astronaut and flies for Virgin Galatic. She made this post on Women in Science day encouraging women to “Go for it!”. Beth Moses is no stranger to paving the way for future scientists and astronauts, and helps to mentor others as the Chief Astronaut Instructor at Virgin Galatic. She was inducted into the Space Camp Hall of Fame in 2019.

Astronaut Christina Koch is a NASA Astronaut that recently returned to Earth after almost a year aboard the International Space Station. She is a five-time alumna of Space Camp and received the distinguished award into the Space Camp Hall of Fame in 2019. She shared this photo on Twitter, expressing her joy in seeing the ocean… from a slightly different vantage point than she had seen it most recently.

NASA Scientist Sarah Noble even got in on the action on Women in Science Day, but helping to dispell an internet rumor that had started circulating the previous day. Sarah Noble and Astronaut Alvin Drew dispelled the “Broomstick Challenge” social media myth that had started circulated the evening before, stating that broomsticks would stand on end that day because of gravitational pull. (Spoiler alert, this can happen any day of the year because they have a low center of gravity.) Sarah helped to share the official word on this challege with Astronaut Drew that “It’s Physics.”. Ms. Noble is a Space Camp Hall of Fame awardee and was inducted into the Space Camp Hall of Fame in 2018.

All of these women and so many more have helped to shape the current landscape of women in science today. We encourage all Space Camp Alumni to follow their dreams and continue making advancements in science.

Welcome Home, Astronaut Christina Koch!

Astronaut Christina Koch has returned home to Earth after 328 days aboard the International Space Station. During her time on the Space Station, she set records as part of the first all women spacewalk team with Astronaut Jessica Meir, and also setting a record for single longest spaceflight by a woman in December 2019.

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

During her journey aboard the International Space Station, Koch completed 5,248 orbits of Earth, traveling over 139 million miles. She frequently shared pictures of her trip on her social media, showing images from above of cities at night, historical landmarks, and significant weather events. (Follow on Twitter: @Astro_Christina) Now home at Johnson Space Center in Houston, she will provide her team with valuable data about long duration spaceflight and be an integral part of the foundation to plan for the Artemis flights. Koch is a five-time alumna of Space Camp and 2018 recipient of the Space Camp Hall of Fame award.

Space Camp Alumna Christina Koch prepares for her return trip to Earth

Astronaut Christina Koch is a five-time Space Camp graduate of Space Camp programs. Koch is a native of Michigan and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics from North Carolina State University, as well as a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering. She graduated from the NASA Academy program at Goddard Space Flight Center in 2001. Afterwards, she worked as an Electrical Engineer in the Labratory for High Energy Astrophysics at Goddard Space Flight Center.

In 2013, Koch was selected as a NASA Astronaut candidate and became one of the eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class. Her astronaut training was complete in July 2015 and she became a part of Expedition 59, 60, and 61 aboard the International Space Station.

Since being aboard the International Space Station, Koch has been a part of many record-breaking endeavors. In October 2018, she and Astronaut Jessica Meir were participants in the first all female spacewalk, and in December 2019 Koch broke the record for longest spaceflight by a woman by exceeding 289 days in space.

Christina Koch is set to return to Earth from the International Space Station on February 6, 2020 and a record breaking 328 days in space. She will return aboard a Russian Soyuz craft with International Space Station crew mates Luca Parmitano and Alexander Skvortsov. Her return to Earth will mark the end of a recording journey aboard the International Space Station for Koch, and the beginning of new adventures yet to come. With the beginning of the Artemis program, Koch is sure to play a role in continued space exploration as humans continue to expand their horizons in the cosmos.

Experience at Mission Control | Space Camp Alumni

Mission control is an essential part of the mission experience at Space Camp! During your time at Mission Control, you may have had a variety of positions from CAPCOM to Flight Director that help complete a successful mission. Your team may have run in to some anomalies along the way to test your problem solving and teamwork skills!

Check out our video on YouTube sharing some moments inside Mission Control:

We share some of the most beloved parts of the mission experience at Space Camp, as well as a glance at some of the new updates to the experience in recent years! Depending on when you first visited camp, it may look quite different from the early days.

When Space Camp first opened, all of the training equipment was housed in what was called the “bubble” and this was a central meeting place for all camp activities. Over the years at the Huntsville, Alabama facility, the operation grew and there were multiple buildings. In the 1990s, the Mission Training floor was housed in the Main Museum area and featured large shuttle components alongside the simulations that Space Camp is best known for.

As the camp has grown, so have its building spaces and one of the most recognizable is the Habitat, or Hab 1. This uniquely shaped living quarters is where trainees feel like they are housed in a Space Station-esque living space, there is also Hab2 and Hab3 on site as well. Missions are usually completed in the main museum space on the mission training floor, but there are also some mission components in the Astrotrek building which has a familiar bubble shape.

Inside the Astrotrek building, you’ll find the Enterprise shuttle mission setup, with the 5DF, Multi-Axis Trainers, and 1/6th gravity chairs all in one space. This new take on camp is across multiple areas at the facility, but still includes all of the signature fun that Space Camp is known for.

Make sure to sign up for our Space Camp Alumni email newsletter, to receive all of the latest alumni news! Space Camp Alumni Chapters are starting in 2020! And we may be coming to a region near you!

Right Stuff Award Winner: Stan Taylor

Written by Chad Driver, Space Camp Alumni Association Board Member

The allies had just emerged victorious from WWII. These were the days of Operation Paperclip, when Von Braun’s team set up shop in Huntsville, Alabama as one front in the Cold War. German V-2 technology would become the foundation for new military rockets – and the idea of swapping out the warhead for a pressurized cabin would soon follow.

It was in this world, in Windsor, Ontario, that Stan Taylor came of age. As a child, he was obsessed with Tom Corbett, Space Cadet – a series of comic books, radio and a TV series about a group of cadets at a fictitious “Space Academy.” Imagination was Stan’s entertainment – and he dreamed about one day, going to space.

In his teen years, Stan saw the science fiction of human spaceflight transition into real science  … the sound barrier fell to Yeager’s X1 … then Sputnik … then Yuri Gagarin’s orbital flight. He still dreamed about space.

In college, Stan studied engineering – working with the emerging technology of transistors as the world shifted away from vacuum tubes. In his spare time, he studied a range of other sciences, but eventually landed in his permanent career as an elementary school teacher. His personal goal as an educator was to pass along the feelings and dreams about space exploration that still lived in him, so he always found a way to work space science into his lessons. The kids ate it up, just as Stan did in his youth.

After retiring from full-time teaching, he joined Canada’s “Scientists in Schools” organization – traveling from school to school to host STEM workshops and perform hands-on experiments designed to spark student interest.

In 2017, Stan got closer to his dream of going to space than he ever thought possible … at the age of 78, Stan Taylor attended Space Academy for Educators. Space Camp for Educators is a weeklong program that includes NASA-inspired lessons and astronaut training simulators designed to promote learning in a classroom setting. Most importantly, it gives graduates a foundation from which they can teach with authority and inspiration. This was exactly what Stan wanted.

The educators were divided into teams, Columbus and Destiny, and immediately started training for the mission at hand. Stan served as Capcom in Mission Control and would be responsible for communicating with the astronauts.

“We read our scripts, looked at monitors in the simulated mission control room showing the launch of the space shuttle, docking with the ISS, and two of our crew doing a space walk. It was intense. I had difficulty understanding most of the codes on the screen in front of me. I wasn’t alone. When the shuttle finally landed, someone announced that we had left two crew members behind. This news hit me hard. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was at that point that I realized what an awesome responsibility the mission control people had who work at space agencies who do real missions daily. This is serious business.”

Stan also remembers his training on the MAT or Multi-Axis Trainer, where trainees see if they can keep their cool while rotating in all directions at the center of concentric rings. Some trainees opt out … but Stan loved it. “I tried everything and participated in everything.”

Photo Caption: One highlight of the week was meeting Homer Hickam Jr., author of Rocket Boys, after a lecture.

At graduation, Stan’s Columbus team earned the Commander’s Cup patch for team work and excellence. Then came time for the Right Stuff Award, given to the trainee who exemplifies the courage, integrity, and excellence of the early space explorers and test pilots. He still remembers the presenter’s wording: “Despite his age, he never let anything get in his way. This was his ‘astronaut dream’ from when he was a kid and everyone could tell he was more than happy to be living his dream!”

Stan held back tears as he approached the stage to accept the award.

“Ever since I was 8 years old, I wanted to have some kind of space adventure. Space Camp was much more than I had envisioned. It took me 69 years to fulfil my dream. What an incredible experience. And as much as I liked camp, my favorite part of the week has to be the people and friendships I made. This is the experience of a lifetime if you throw yourself into it! And I did.”

Photo Caption: Stan receives the Right Stuff Award

When Stan returned home to Canada, he put what he learned into practice and established a new space club for kids in grades 1-8. The group gets together monthly to performs missions, host speakers, do hands-on science activities … and eat pizza.

“I started the space club so kids wouldn’t have to wait as long as I did to enjoy the wonders of what is possible. Thanks to Tom Corbett, Space Cadet … thanks to Space Camp, I have so much love and knowledge about space that I can’t keep it to myself. This is the generation that will walk on the surface of Mars.”

Stan is still an active member of the “Scientists in Schools” organization. He continues to travel to approximately 100 schools per year … to make about 150 presentations per year … with about 30 kids in each class. Stan is still sharing his dreams.

Although it may seem obvious, he still isn’t sure why they picked him as the Right Stuff Award winner. But his team members know. After they returned home, one wrote on the group’s Facebook page, “Stan was awarded the Right Stuff medal for being his awesome self.”

Meet your 2020 Space Camp Alumni Association Board

There is lots of celebrating ahead! In 2020, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is celebrating its 50th birthday, it is the 30th anniversary of Aviation Challenge, and the Space Camp Alumni Association is kicking off Space Camp Alumni Chapters in regions across the United States!

This year, we also welcome board member Christopher Key as the new Space Camp Alumni Association Board Chair, Dr. Gretchen Green as Co-Chair, and Dr. Andrea Hanson as Chair Emeritus. They will serve in those positions for two years after having previously been regular board members. We thank Ben Chandler, previous Chair Emeritus, Chair, and board member for his many years of service as a part of the Space Camp Alumni Association.

Below is our full Space Camp Alumni Association Board roster for 2020:

Chris Key is a 2-time Space Camp program alum and former Aviation Challenge crew trainer. Chris is a Cybersecurity professional and Director with PricewaterhouseCoopers leading a global transformation of their security services.  Chris is a private-pilot and avid space enthusiast.  He applied those passions towards volunteer projects restoring and preserving USSRC’s various aircraft artifacts at Aviation Challenge.  Chris lives in Huntsville, AL with his wife, Ruth Marie Oliver, another Space Camp alum and former Aviation Challenge / Space Camp operations manager.

Dr. Gretchen Green is 4-time Space Camp program alumna, former crew trainer, and recipient of the Outstanding Camper and Right Stuff awards. Dr. Green is a Harvard, Yale, and Brown educated radiologist practicing in North Carolina.

Dr. Andrea Hanson, is a former Crew Trainer for the Advanced Academy Programs in Huntsville, AL (2000 & 2002), and today servers as the Chair of the Space Camp Alumni Association Board. She received her BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of North Dakota, and Masters and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado. She was a National Space and Biomedical Research Institute Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Washington, and a 2010 Inductee to the Space Camp Hall of Fame. Dr. Hanson is a NASA Scientist and Engineer, and serves as the International Space Station Exercise Countermeasures Operations Lead and supports the Human Research Program’s Exploration Medical Capability System Engineering team, designing crew health and performance systems for our next generation space programs!

Michele O’Shaughnessy is a two-time Space Camp program alum and has gone through the Adult Space Academy and Advanced Adult Space Academy programs.  Ms. O’Shaughnessy has over twenty-four years of federal government experience, working for two Departments/Agencies and at multiple United States Department of Energy (DOE) field locations.  Professionally, Michele is an engineer/project manager for the DOE at the Savannah River Site.  She supports multi-appropriation programs, projects, and activities, as well as, the effective integration of site planning.  Ms. O’Shaughnessy has held a wide range of positions in areas such as Program/Project Management, Emergency Management/Preparedness/Response, and Waste Management.  She earned her BS in Civil Engineering with an Environmental Focus from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a MS in Environmental Systems Engineering with a Nuclear Focus from Clemson University. Michele was selected and participated in the NASA Social for the Parker Solar Probe Mission.  Ms. O’Shaughnessy is a senior life member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and held key leadership roles at the collegiate and professional sections, Region and Society levels including a SWE Board of Director.  Michele lives in Aiken, SC.  She is an active member of the Aiken community and is a Board of Director, officer, and member for several non-profit and professional/technical organizations.  

Sean Squire is an Operations Research Analyst on the staff of Commander, United States Pacific Fleet. Prior to joining the Pacific Fleet staff, he served as a Systems Engineer, Technical Program Manager, and Mission Engineer at Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport, as a Technical Advisor to Commander, Submarine Forces US Pacific Fleet and as a Systems Engineer for Raytheon Naval and Maritime Systems in Portsmouth, RI. Mr. Squire received his Bachelor’s degree with double majors in Electrical & Computer Engineering and in Humanities from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, MA in 1996.  He received a certificate in Program Management in 2009 and a Masters degree in Engineering Acoustics in 2014 both from the Naval Postgraduate School. In addition, Mr. Squire is also a Private Pilot, PADI Divemaster, and served as an EMT and Firefighter for 25 years, most recently in Bristol, RI, where he was a Captain and member of the Board of Fire Engineers. Sean lives in Honolulu, HI with his wife Donajene. Sean is a three times alum, and has gone through the Space Academy Level I, Adult Space Academy, and Adult Advanced Space Academy programs.

Suzanne Saltz is a director and first assistant director for television. Prior to making her directorial debut on NCIS: Los Angeles, Suzanne worked her way up on a variety of television shows, including Beverly Hills 90210, JAG, NCIS, Six Feet Under, Bones, Pushing Daisies, and NCIS: Los Angeles. Suzanne received her bachelor degree in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. After graduation, she was accepted to the Director’s Guild of America Producer Training Plan. Attending Space Camp in August of 1985 was pivotal because Space Camp the movie was being filmed during her time at the Space and Rocket Center. Suzanne is an active member of the Director’s Guild of America, Alliance of Women Directors and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Suzanne has two adult children and resides in Bakersfield, California with her husband and two dogs; they spend their holidays in Bella Vista, Arkansas.

Colonel David W. Cole is a native of White Hall, Arkansas and a graduate of Space Camp, COL Cole earned his Medical Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas, School of Medicine and completed his residency in Aerospace Medicine from the Navy Bureau of Medicine at Pensacola, Florida. COL Cole’s has been active in the Aerospace Community with training in the Aviation Safety Officer Course, Space Operations Medical Course, Advanced Clinical Concepts for Aeromedical Evacuation, Space Fundamentals Course (Resident). He has supported Space Shuttle Landings, and various space operations through his career. COL Cole has fond memories of operating the robotic arm while at Space Camp and being inspired during the shuttle era.

Rebecca Torzone resides in Crofton, MD with her family of 4 children. Her passion for the U.S. Space program dates back to 1984 when she was eight years old and in the second grade. “My parents made a deal with me that if I saved enough money to attend Space Camp that they would pay for the airfare. I babysat, shoveled snow, and did whatever work I could find to earn the money”.  She earned enough to attend Space Academy I, Space Academy II, and Aviation Challenge. She received the “Right Stuff” award while attending Space Academy II.  Her career in STEM has been inspired by this passion and she largely attributes it to being a Space Camp participant.

Rebecca has been with Northrop Grumman since 2000, and has worked a broad set of programs across multiple locations, including Colorado Springs, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Baltimore. Her roles encompassed Systems Engineering, Strategy, Logistics, Engineering functional leadership, and a series of increasingly responsible program management positions in superconducting electronics and airborne and ground radar businesses. In her current roleas Vice President Strategy and Performance for Engineering and Sciences, she is chartered with developing strategies and implementing initiatives to ensure Northrop Grumman meets the growing demand to hire cleared and well qualified engineers and scientists. This organization will also ensure newly hired employees are effectively on-boarded, trained and equipped to deliver exceptional program performance. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Physics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a master’s degree in Computer Science from Colorado Technical University, and a master’s degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Rebecca has also completed the University of Chicago Booth School of Business Executive Strategy program.

Joyce Hirai, is an alumna of the Advanced Space Academy program (1999 & 2000) and former Aviation Challenge Crew Trainer (2007 & 2008). Joyce served on Active Duty Air Force for 11 years as a Meteorologist and lived all over the world in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Turkey. She is now an Air Force Reservist as a Flight Meteorologist for the Hurricane Hunters. Joyce earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Meteorology from Embry-Riddler Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona and a Masters of Science degree in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota. She now resides in Houston, Texas with her husband, Patrick, 3 dogs (Atlas, Marshall and Astra) and cat (Schrodinger).

Lieutenant Colonel Hecker, is a native of New Orleans, La., and graduated from Randolph High School in Huntsville, Ala.. He attended Auburn University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications in 1997. He worked in the television industry for five years and joined the Marine Corps shortly after September 11, 2001. John’s military career includes 16 years of active duty service and 3 years as a reservist with stints in Florida, Arkansas, North Carolina, Okinawa, and New York, flying the T-34, T-44, C-130 E, KC-130 F, R, T, and J model aircraft. One of the many highlights of John’s career included being selected to the Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron (NFDS), U.S. Navy “Blue Angels,” to pilot “Fat Albert” and showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Hecker was inducted into the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Space Camp Hall of Fame in 2017 and currently serves as the Hall of Fame Executive Director. 

Samantha Johnson, is a public library director in the Chicago suburbs with over fifteen years of experience in libraries who completed her Master’s of Library & Information Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2013. She attended Space Camp in August of 2000 and has not stopped bragging since. In addition to her work, she is an active member of the Illinois Library Association and a proud Rotarian who believes wholeheartedly in its motto, Service Above Self. 

Vinay Gidwaney, is a serial entrepreneur who has started two successful technology companies in the IT management and insuretech industries. Previously, he was a neuroscience researcher at the MIT Media Lab. Vinay also sits on the board of the education non-profit, Design for Change USA. Vinay lives in Boston, with his wife, Sanjli and his three children. 

David Hernly, is the CEO of Mythric Studios. He first became interested in simulations during his time at Space Camp. He lives in Newport News, Virginia with his family.

Josh Warren, is a Managing Director at BlackRock. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and NYU Law School and attended Space Camp in 1991. He lives with his family in New York.

Chad Driver attended Space Academy while in High School, worked at the Space and Rocket Center for the summer while in college and has attended Family Space Camp three times with each of his daughters. He received a BS in Political Science and a BA in Spanish from Vanderbilt University. After 16 years in marketing and product management, Chad started Driver Productions in 2010, creating video and shooting still photography for a variety of clients: The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Dockers, Johnston & Murphy, Mars, Motorola, Nashville Ballet, and Vanderbilt University. He grew up in Huntsville, AL and now lives in Nashville with his wife and two daughters.

Brooks Martin grew up in Nashville, TN, a short drive from Space Camp. Brooks attended Kenyon College and California Institute for the Arts, and has since worked in the film industry and interactive and digital media spaces.  Brooks started on TV shows like The Real World and Road Rules and Threat Matrix and Alias. He then moved to digital sites, apps, and games, working with notable clients such as The Country Music Hall of Fame, Sony, Microsoft, Comcast, Disney, CNN, Target, EA Sports and Halo.  Currently Brooks a Global Digital Emerging Products Lead at Marriott International, where he leads digital product development, UX, design, marketing, innovation with Marriott’s 30 brands.   He spent 15 years in Los Angeles, but now resides in Maryland near DC, with his wife and three young boys.  Brooks attended Space Camp in ’91 and was a member of the Venus team.

Diana Hughes is the Alumni Engagement Specialist from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Education Foundation and has many fond memories of her time at Space Camp. She grew up in Illinois and currently lives in the Huntsville, Alabama area. She attended Space Camp programs three times in her youth, an Astrotrek group experience, Space Academy in 1997, and Advanced Space Academy in 1998. The camps increased her love of science and helped to advance her leadership skills. Over the years, Diana has worked as a dance studio owner, social media manager, and has honed her focus on digital marketing by developing a travel centric YouTube channel. She considers her current role to be like CAPCOM for Space Camp Alumni! 

Find out more about the Space Camp Alumni Association on the ‘About Us’ page:

Space Camp Alumni Chapters will serve as a connection point for alumni in their local regions and be an exciting new additional to the association. Individuals that are interested in starting an Alumni Chapter in a region that does not currently have a chapter may contact the Alumni Representative ([email protected]) for more information.