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Tag: Right Stuff

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.”