HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A 14-year-old Burrillville girl has completed her third session at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, a weeklong education program training potential future space explorers.
Abygail Houle, of Oakland, completed her first year of the program at age 11, and recently attended the center’s Advanced Space Academy. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is home of Space Camp, Space Camp Robotics, Aviation Challenge and U.S. Cyber Camp.
The Rocket Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s official visitor center.
Many former students in the program, which trains young men and women with a passion for space exploration – from both the U.S. and abroad – “like an astronaut,” go on to careers in the field.
“Space Camp alumni aren’t just astronauts, they’re pilots, teachers and engineers,” noted one post from the organization.
The program promotes science, technology, engineering and math, while training students and with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and problem solving.
Houle first attended the camp in 2018 and graduated the center’s robotics program in 2019, with plans to attend the aeronautics program in 2020.
Like so many things in 2020, the pandemic changed those plans, leaving the camp with limited capacity and low attendance following a brief shutdown. The organization raised millions to save the facility through an ambitious GoFundMe campaign.
This month, Houle, now a seasoned camp veteran and soon to turn 15, was again among the latest crop of graduates from the reopened facility.
The program is specifically designed for trainees who have a passion for space exploration, and Houle spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated space mission to the International Space Station, the Moon or Mars. The crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity, or spacewalk. Houle and crew returned to earth in time to graduate with honors.
Space Camp is located in Huntsville, Al., and uses astronaut training techniques to engage trainees in real-world applications of STEM subjects. Students sleep in quarters designed to resemble the ISS and train in simulators, like those used by NASA.
The advanced space academy specifically caters to participants ages 15-18, with a six day course that includes everything from scuba diving and flying a jet aircraft simulator, to engineering challenges, such as building a Rover.
Almost 1 million trainees have graduated from a Space Camp program since its inception in 1982, including European Space Agency astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA astronauts Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Dr. Kate Rubins, Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Christina Koch, who set the record for the longest duration space flight by a female. Children and teachers from all 50 states and almost 150 international locations have attended a Space Camp program.
To learn more about the program visit www.spacecamp.com.
Editor’s note: An original version of this article stated that Houle’s father was Grant Fournier. We apologize for the error.