American Heritage Student Had an Out-of-the-World Experience

By Beverly Perkins

Many kids over the summer enjoyed swimming, hiking, sporting activities, lounging around, and hobbies that they don’t get to participate in during the school year. However, Joshua Hoffman, a freshman at American Heritage School, spent his summer graduating from the Space Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s Official Visitor Center.

The weeklong educational program at the renowned school promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), while training students and adults with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and problem solving.

The students stayed in “Habitats”, 6 to a room while “Waste Management” (bathrooms and showers) were at the ends of the hallways. They were divided into 16-person teams, and called trainees. Each team had 2 trainers, one during the day and one at night.

Joshua was part of the Space Academy program, which is designed for trainees who have an interest in space exploration. Astronauts and Space Academy graduates, who work at Boeing, gave lectures about the next generation of space travel. Classroom studies consisted of studying missions to Mars, astronomy, spacesuits, the International Space Station (ISS), and many other subjects relating to rocketry and space travel.

However, the highlight was spending the week training with a team that flew a simulated space mission to Mars where they could experience the feeling of walking on the moon on a 1/6 gravity chair. They also did team building challenges such as constructing a cube underwater and designing and launching model rockets. Furthermore, the crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk, and returned to Earth in time to graduate with honors. 

“Attending Space Academy was a phenomenal experience because ever since I was little, I have always been fascinated with what’s outside our world,” exclaimed Joshua. “Being in Huntsville at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and expanding my knowledge about astronomy and space travel is something that I will definitely put to good use and hopefully have a better chance of actually going to the moon or Mars one day. That’s my dream!”

Space Camp operates year-round in Huntsville, Ala., and uses astronaut training techniques to engage trainees in real-world applications of STEM subjects. Trainees sleep in quarters designed to resemble the International Space Station and train in NASA-inspired simulators. 

More than 750,000 trainees have graduated from Space Camp since its inception in Huntsville, Alabama in 1982, including STS-131 astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, European Space Agency astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA Expedition 48 astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins.  Last year, children and teachers from all 50 states and 69 international locations attended Space Camp. 

Interested in training like an astronaut?  Visit or call 1-800-637-7223.