Space Travel to Alabama on Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder


Newstalk Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama

April 4th 2019

This year is the fiftieth anniversary since man walked on the moon on July 20th 1969 and what better time to investigate Space Travel than being an astronaut. Michelle travelled to Huntsville in Alabama, known also as Rocket City since the early days of rocket development.

There’s an Intriguing history to The Space and Rocket Centre. Located in northern Alabama it is also the first home to NASA. The site was used as a chemical weapons factory during WW11 and the land was deemed unsafe and hence made into a military base. Werhner Von Braun with 132 other German scientists were naturalized in to the US after the war in operation paperclip. He was the man responsible for the development of the V2 rocket and pops up all over the Space and Rocket centre. He was one of the most important scientist in the race for space. During the cold war it was the German scientists relocated to the USSR and the USA that fuelled the race in to space. There are ten NASA basis scattered across America but this was the original one. The Archives hold interesting and unique memorabilia such as Von Braun’s identity tag used during the Apollo mission and his dissertation on how to create a working rocket. Along with a host of space memorabilia from the fifties, sixties and seventies.

What is space camp?

Space Camp was founded in 1982 as a place for young people to go and learn about space exploration but more than that it’s about understanding team work and inspiring students to learn about the science of space travel.

What happens when you arrive there?

Space Camp for adults is similar to Space Camp for kids. Imagine a place where you get to do all the cool stuff an astronaut does in simulators and use equipment that was used with the pioneers of space travel. First you get your bunk and are handed your bed-linen cling wrapped. There is a drink curfew so if you want to indulge at night you can stroll to the Marriot hotel next door.

Next big decision is what to wear – you have the option of buying a flight suit. Dark blue so you look like you’re in uniform. Food is catered for in the canteen and lunches and dinners are themed by different countries who are involved in the International Space Station. You start quickly into the jam packed activities.




What sort of activities?

We started off making a rocket from balsa wood and plastic. I was suspicious about them working but it was incredible to see them shoot off next day hundreds of feet into the air and return to earth with a parachute. We got to bring them home but as there were traces of gun-powder lodged inside I didn’t want to be stopped at the airport and left mine behind.

Multi Axis trainer – where you experience zero gravity as you are tossed and turned in a spinner a similar one was used in NASAs first manned space flight program

Moon Walking – The simulator chair is 1/6 gravity which means if you weigh 170 lbs on earth the simulator will make you feel 28 lbs as you would on the moon. click here to see my attempts at riverdance on the moon Moonwalker

Space Shuttle simulator – which I crashed on my second mission. Our team were all allocated jobs and as commander of the shuttle I realized that I’d taken on too much looking at the checklist. The inside of the cockpit was very realistic and we were kept busy.

First spider in space

Space Station Experiments – Here’s the science bit where each participant does things such as baking in space OR DOING CHEMISTRY EXPERIMENTS

Orion Launch – The big news in space travel is the SLS the world’s largest rocket system and NASA hope to use it to take humans further than they have travelled and the ultimate prize is Mars.

Launching our rockets …to see the video of our Launch click below

Rocket Launch

Museums on Campus

Moon Rock

Artefacts include actual training equipment used by those on the Apollo 11 mission. There is even a sample of moon rock and real size craft. The planetarium shows movies to help understand the science of space travel from the history of Copernicus to more modern examples of scientific achievement. We spent part of one morning meeting Docents who worked in different parts of NASA and some are currently involved in designing improvement to the SLS.


Also Theme park rides – If you want to experience 3.4 G force, the same as the launch of a rocket into space – then you can experience that on one of the rides. I literally felt my head and back stick to the wall behind me and was dizzy for a few minutes after.

IT’s Possible to Visit The Museums just for the day too if you are on a road trip and passing through

Team work

The group I was with were involved in team building out in the woods and we had to do all sorts of tasks such as walk a ravine over blocks of wood and move tennis balls from one bucket to another using only rope.

One of the more technical tasks involved Making a heat shield resistant to the heat of a rocket during take off – This experiment was done using an egg and blow torch and turned out to be great fun

Since Space Camp started five of their alumni have flown into space, all of them women.



On completion of the course everyone received a certificate and photo – one group was named most outstanding and given a special badge for achievement in the tasks.

What else to do in Huntsville? Alabama is a warm and welcoming state with an incredible history in the civil rights movement sparked by Martin Luthur King and still evident in Birmingham where there is a museum. Rosa Parks and the march to Selma all feature highly. Mobile is a Mardi Grastown and home to the first one with a real creole feel and French influence in food and architecture.

Party Like It’s 1969! #Apollo50

On July 16, 1969 at 9:32 a.m. at NASA’s Launch Pad 39A, Apollo 11’s five F1 engines on Nasa’s Saturn-V AS-506 rocket ignited to slowly lift three Americans and humankind’s dreams aboard the historic mission to the Moon. On the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Huntsville will be toasting Apollo workers and moonwalkers, and leading a rocket launch of thousands around the world as part of its celebration. Throughout 2019, plans to commemorate the Apollo 11 anniversary events and Alabama’s Bicentennial are underway, highlighted by Panoply 2019’s Alabama Bicentennial and Lunar Landing themes, a Guinness World record attempt at the most simultaneous rocket launches, an Apollo Homecoming Dinner at the U. S. Space & Rocket Center and dancing in the streets on Courthouse Square. The Apollo 11 mission anniversary week in July 2019 also includes a Celebration Car Show, and a concert on July 20th, moon landing<>

How to get to Huntsville? I took a united airlines flight via Dulles Airport and had a mini holiday in Virginia and DC with a long stay over. This is a great way to have two holidays for the price of one. This is cherry blossom time of year in DC and the weather can be quite balmy and lovely. There’s lots to do in DC and two fantastic museums to explore space and air travel

1. The Udvar Hazy museum is only ten minutes from DullesInternational airport and can make a great time filler if you have a medium layover between flights. For more information see Virginia. ://

2. The Air and Space museum in DC is especially good and is holding a special commemorative exhibition to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of man on the moon. For more information see

Package and how much it will cost: – 3 day camp stay from $549.00 per person (over 18 years old)

Tour America Package


Return flights, with united airlines (All taxes and charges)

4 Nights accommodation at The Marriott Space and Rocker Centre

Based on 4 adults sharing does not include camp

Date of departure: 5th Sept 2019

Our Ref: 648239

Telephone 01 8173535



Michelle was a guest of Alabama Tourism’ – Alabama Tourism


What you will see at Huntsville Space and Rocket Centre

A space enthusiast, history buff, appreciator of the arts, or anyone with a general curiosity for how the world works would enjoy Alabama’s top tourism jewel. Where else can one stand beneath the world’s only full-stack Space Shuttle, complete with two solid rocket boosters and external tank? Or walk the length of a suspended authentic Saturn V moon rocket?


The spaceflight collection doesn’t stop there. In true Huntsville fashion, you’ll find history celebrated along with progress. The permanent museum collection covers everything from:

  • The first American satellite, Explorer I
  • Original capsule trainers for the Mercury and Gemini programs
  • Design modules for the International Space Station
  • Next generation vehicles, such as Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser
  • Current models for SLS

As a Smithsonian Institute affiliate, the Rocket Center attracts international traveling exhibits that have featured everything from Da Vinci, prehistoric mammals, animal robots and Star Wars.


New in 2019, the INTUITIVE® Planetarium offers astronomy shows, live entertainment and theater experiences. See documentaries in 3D on the 52-foot screen of the National Geographic Theater. For the thrill-seekers, there’s the “Space Shot,” where you’ll feel 4 Gs of force as you launch 140 feet in the air in 2.5 seconds, or you can experience three times the force of gravity as you spin in the “G-Force Accelerator.”


As if that weren’t enough while you’re at the Rocket Center, you’ll get a birds-eye view of Space Camp where more than 750,000 students (and adults) have conducted simulated missions.

Fun Fact: Did you know that five space camp graduates have gone on to become astronauts? And all five are women – too cool!




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