HERE. It turned out to be great! All the girls stayed in one large dorm room, and all the boys stayed in one large room. We each had our own bathroom. Therefore, we didn't have to walk down the hall to go to the restroom, nor did we have to share with another school group! Yay! The girls' room was huge (we had 54 bunks)! For those who are interested, here's what our accommodations were like:
Anyway, after we arrived and settled into our Habitat, we had orientation and soon jumped into activities. Our school participated in the same program as last year, Pathfinder, and we were even split up into three groups with the same names as last year--Armstrong, Aldrin, and Bean. I was on Team Armstrong again and our camp counselor was named "Karl with a K." No, we didn't just call him Karl; we had to say, "Karl with a K." He was awesome! Before our trip, we prayed specifically for a counselor/crew trainer who was loud, energetic, and enjoyed being with us. Karl with a K was all that and more! He taught us a chant that we shouted out randomly at Space Camp. When he yelled "Armstrong!" We would yell back, "Stays strong....ALL...DAY...LONG!"
On Day 1, Team Armstrong visited the Rocket Park and learned about early rocket history, trained for our space mission, rode G-Force, visited the Davidson Museum (and learned about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs), rode the MAT (Multi-Axis Trainer) simulator, and assembled rockets.
|Karl with a K, telling a story about Alan Shepard's first flight.|
|My team's mission patch, with the explanation below.|
|Team Aldrin's mission patch|
|Team Bean's mission patch|
We had the opportunity to ride Space Shot a second time and I jumped on it! I love that ride! You are shot 140 feet in the air and experience a moment of free fall. This ride simulates what a launch is like, as well as a brief period of microgravity. Here's what the ride is like:
I love roller coasters and rides like this (that drop you suddenly), and I'm not afraid of heights. So, I took a new group of kids and we rode a second time. I sat on the end, like in the video, with a little boy next to me, and a girl on the end. In all, I had 6 students on the ride, as well as a mom chaperone. We got buckled in, and with little notice, we shot up! I knew, after the first drop, that something wasn't right. The ride didn't feel like it normally does--and I've ridden Space Shot enough times to know what it's like! Pretty soon, we slowly lifted to the very top of the ride and stopped. We were suspended 140 feet in the air. The children started to get a little nervous after a minute or two, and began to question me about why we'd stopped. I said, "I'm not sure, but look at this wonderful view! This is a view of Space Camp we don't normally get to see!?! Check out the hills in the background, and..." The little girl interrupted me and said, "Mrs. Bowman, I know you're trying to distract us, but IT'S NOT WORKING!" She went on, "Ugh! I knew I should have gone to the bathroom instead of getting on this ride!" We chuckled, but then I started to hear the heartbreaking sounds of my students on the other side of the ride crying and wailing. I couldn't call out to them, so I yelled to the little girl on the end, "Try to shout to those girls and tell them it's okay! We are going to get down soon!" The little girl tried, but the wind was blowing, air was releasing from the valves behind our heads, and it was difficult to communicate over all the noise. I could clearly hear the hysteria, however, and it was awful. I immediately started praying out loud. The longer we were up there, the more nervous the little girl on the end seemed to get. To be honest, I was getting nervous as well.
|My nervous face!|
After a while, our feet and legs began tingling and growing numb. We had been up there for a while and we had no idea what was going on. There was no way for anyone on the ground to give us info or talk to us. We just had to wait. My kids and I kept praying and praying out loud. I said, "Guys, I know we are surprised by this and it's unexpected, but the Lord knew we would be stuck up here in this moment. This is not a surprise to Him. There is some reason we are up here. This may be the opportunity you need for your faith to grow...for you to put your trust in Him...for you to learn dependence on Him...I don't know...but I'm pretty sure we will never be the same!"
We continued to pray and talk and soon the wind started to blow as hard as ever. We were so cold and the gusts were rocking our seats. That was nerve-wracking! I had my camera with me and was able to record this brief prayer (you can hear how badly the wind was blowing...and, yes, my teeth were chattering):
We had been dangling in the air for around 30 minutes or so. You can see the time-lapse with these pictures (notice the position of the sun/shadows):
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we felt like we were being slowly lowered. We looked up...and, YES...we were moving! Hallelujah! Once we got to the bottom, we prayed again! I'll tell you, I don't know if I've ever prayed so hard in my life! We were handed bottles of water and shook hands with several Space Camp officials. They apologized profusely and let us know that this has never happened before. One man told us, "In my 25 years here, this has never happened."
Apparently, the ride operates on an air compression system. When it launches, it is supposed to reach 26 PSI; instead, for whatever reason (possibly high winds impacted the machine?), it reached 30 PSI and immediately went into maintenance mode. We couldn't be lowered until the air pressure bled off. Unfortunately, this took a while. Thankfully, we were lowered slowly. I had been wondering how we would drop...
|Us at the top (picture taken from a distance)|
|So happy to have our feet on the ground!|
What I love about this experience is that my students saw God. After we landed safely on the ground, a little girl came up to me and said, "Mrs. Bowman, I've never felt closer to God than right now!" We talked about the whole situation! They were able to see God answer prayers, and for some of them, their walk with the Lord will never be the same again.
For me, that experience taught me several things. I realized that I really like control. If you know me as a teacher, you know that I expect my classroom to run like a well-oiled machine. I like structure, order, and for things to be done a certain way. When I was at the top of Space Shot, I had absolutely no control. Things were not working out the way I thought they should. How did I handle that? How do I normally respond when something unexpected happens? I handled the situation by turning immediately to prayer. Honestly, if the children hadn't been there, I would have cried and thrown a fit and been a hysterical mess! I was reminded by this situation that I'm really not in control of anything. None of us are. We are at the mercy and under the authority of a sovereign God. Another thing that stuck out to me was something I already mentioned--I immediately turned to prayer. I prayed more passionately and fervently at the top of Space Shot than I have in a while. But I don't want to do that only when I'm in a bad spot or when something terrible happens! I want to "pray without ceasing" and talk that passionately with God on a daily basis. So many people (myself included) get into the habit of crying out to God only when things go wrong. I want to wake up daily and submit everything to Jesus Christ...turn to Him in every situation, good or bad. I do try to live my life for Christ every day, but this situation was a great reminder to me of how important it is.
One last "God-moment"...after one of my many prayers at the top of Space Shot, the little girl on the end turned to me and asked, "Mrs. Bowman, did you feel that?!"
"What??" I said.
"We just prayed that the wind would stop...and it's stopped!!" she gasped.
Even though this experience wasn't pleasant, I'm thankful for it. I'm extremely glad that I was on the ride with the kids instead of being on the ground, looking up helplessly. Granted, I was helpless ON the ride, but it made my students feel better that I was experiencing this with them.
Side note: Earlier today, I actually called that part-time pastor/U.S. Space & Rocket Center official who gave me his card, and we had an incredible phone conversation. We talked for almost half an hour and he shared with me what his sermon was going to be about, among other things. Explaining our conversation would be another blog post, so all I'll say about it is this--I'm in awe of how God moved on this trip!
Once the excitement was over and our nerves had settled, my group ended Day 2 with dinner, a Museum Scavenger Hunt, and a simulator.
After our devotion time, we played Space Bowl--and Team Aldrin won!
Before we left, my group enjoyed Space Dots ice cream: