Dr. Serena Auñón
Fort Collins, CO
The George Washington University, B.S.
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, M.P.H
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, M.D.
Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor’s Space Camp mission position as medical officer was prophetic. Fast forward 25 years, and Serena will be launching on a Soyuz rocket as a member of Expedition 58/59 to the International Space Station. Space Camp was more than a much-desired 16th birthday gift for Serena. It confirmed what she thought she already knew. She was going to be an astronaut. “I felt very confident walking out after that week,” she said. “It reaffirmed what I wanted to become.” Serena holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from The George Washington University and attended medical school at the University of Texas – Health Science Center at Houston. She is board certified in Internal and Aerospace Medicine and was a flight surgeon to both space shuttle and ISS astronauts before being selected for the 2009 Astronaut Class. In her own astronaut career, Serena has searched for meteorites in Antarctica and operated the Deep Worker submersible on the NEEMO 16 mission. She also served aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory during the NEEMO 20 undersea exploration mission. She is scheduled to launch to the ISS in November 2018.
Dr. Michelle Christensen
University of Alabama in Huntsville, B.S.
Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D.
If her little brother hadn’t gotten sick on a trip to Disney World,Dr. Michelle Christensen might not be building rocket engines for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Her dad took 5-year-old Michelle to Kennedy Space Center for the day, and she remembers standing under a Redstone rocket and staring at the engine. She wanted to know how it worked. Her parents looked for every opportunity to encourage their daughter’s interests, and at 14, she flew across the country to Space Camp for the first time. “I remember getting to camp and meeting these kids from all over the world,” Michelle said. She had found her place. She came back in 11th grade and worked as a Space Camp crew trainer in college, which led her to transfer to the University of Alabama in Huntsville to study aerospace engineering. Through UAH, she got a research job at Marshall Space Flight Center and then went on to Pennsylvania State University for her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. Today, she’s at the cutting-edge of the commercial space industry helping build reusable rockets. She’s also found the same kind of teamwork environment she loved at Space Camp. “It’s being part of a group of people who were excited about the same thing I was excited about,” she said.
Major John Hecker
B.A., Auburn University
Major John Hecker’s career as a U.S. Marine Corps pilot started late, but it quickly took off. John was 29 when he got the call on Sept. 11, 2001, to report to Quantico for officer training. He had been told he was too old to join, but the terrorist attacks that day changed everything. John was soon learning to fly a C-130, the big, four-engine aircraft he would ultimately operate as part of the fabled Blue Angels squadron. His father’s U.S. Army career took John’s family in and out of Huntsville several times, and John spent many days of his childhood at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, first on nearly daily visits and later for Space Academy. “The U.S. Space & Rocket Center itself was a gigantic part of my childhood,” John said. In the Marines, he found the same kind of teamwork he remembered from Space Camp, and he revisited his team’s presenter role many times in the Blue Angels. In his three years on the squadron, he traveled almost 300 days a year, speaking to young people all over the country. His message was always to keep striving for what you want and to “recognize service to something greater yourself.” “It’s a great way to live your life,” he said.
Dr. Jennifer Heldmann
Colgate University, B.S.
University of North Dakota, M.S.
University of Colorado at Boulder, Ph.D.
Dr. Jennifer Heldmann was in third grade when she looked through a telescope and saw the moon up close. This was an actual place with mountains and craters, and she was “blown away.” Jennifer has been looking up ever since. A planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, she is researching how we will one day live on the moon and Mars. Jennifer came to Space Camp her junior year in high school, a trip she still thanks her mom for making happen. “It was the first time I was surrounded by people like me,” she said. “I was in this place dedicated to space. It started to become a real thing.” Her work today takes her to hostile environments such as Antarctica to study water, and she works on space craft data, computer modeling and Earth analogs to help prepare for deep space flight. “It’s test before you fly, the Space Camp way,” Jen said. She has won many accolades in her career, including the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award and a NASA mentor award, but she counts the Space Camp Hall of Fame as her top achievement. “It’s like something that is instilled in your inner core of being since 10,” she said.
B.S., Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
M.S., George Washington University
In his aerospace career, Jason Hopkins has worked on satellite systems for Lockheed Martin and on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. He has managed the daily operations of the massive Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center and served as a NASA Fellow advising U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate’s Science and Space Subcommittee. Capitol Hill is a long way, however, from the Georgia town where a little boy created an imaginary space ship from his mother’s laundry basket. Two trips to Space Camp in middle school cemented Hopkins’ desire for an aerospace career. He carried his Space Camp log book everywhere with him and would rattle off space shuttle facts to anyone who would listen. Hopkins is now a part of the next generation of space exploration as he helps develop a reusable launch craft for Masten Space Systems. He also hasn’t given up on going into space himself, this time as a NASA astronaut on a real space craft.
Dr. Amy Kaminski
B.A., Cornell University
M.A., George Washington University
M.S. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
When Dr. Amy Kaminski was 8, her grandfather sat up lawn chairs in the back yard so they could watch the Perseid meteor shower together. That’s when the “space bug” hit her, and she began reading everything she could about astronomy. At 11, she came to Space Camp for the first of four times and returned as a counselor while in college. Like many Space Camp trainees, Kaminski wanted to be an astronaut, but she ultimately realized she was more interested in the “how” and “why” of space exploration. She wanted to understand and contribute to the important choices the country must make in continuing the space program. With degrees in earth and planetary science, public policy and science and technology studies, Kaminski’s career has included developing the science and education budgets for NASA and advising NASA’s chief scientist on space policy matters, including ways to engage the public in NASA’s mission.
B.A., Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
M.Phil., Trinity College, University of Cambridge
Fulbright Scholar to Tunisia
George Whitesides is a self-avowed space nerd with a love of adventure. As a child, he would look at the sky on clear nights and think “I want to go up there someday.” He pored over astronaut biographies and came to Space Camp at 16, where he received the Right Stuff Award. A young man of many interests, however, he studied government and considered becoming a lawyer, but it was always the thought of space travel that excited him most. He became the Executive Director of the National Space Society before serving as Chief of Staff for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. For his work, Whitesides received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest honor the agency bestows. He is now the CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, working with Sir Richard Branson on the development of commercial spaceflight vehicles. It’s on one of those crafts that Whitesides plans to make his first flight into space soon.
On June 6, 1986, “Space Camp” opened in theaters, igniting the desire of thousands of children to come to the real Space Camp®. Space Camp was the inspiration for the film in which a group of teens, a 12-year-old Max, a literal-minded robot named Jinx and a NASA-trained astronaut take off on an unexpected journey to space. In honor of the 30th anniversary of its release and the many children who wore out their VHS copies of the movie, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is inducting the film’s all-star cast – Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott, Joaquin Phoenix, who was known as Leaf at the time, Tate Donovan and Tom Skerritt – into the Space Camp Hall of Fame. Harry Winer directed and five-time Academy Award winner John Williams composed the score for the movie, which was filmed in part on the grounds of the Rocket Center.
B.S., University of California, San Diego
Ph.D, Stanford University
Dr. Kate Rubins is the third Space Camp® alumna to fly in space, with a scheduled launch to the International Space Station in the summer of 2016. Kate dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child and did chores around the house to earn her trip to Space Academy® in seventh grade. She left camp knowing she needed to take as many math and science courses as she could, and that focus paved the way to her study of viral diseases and, ultimately, the NASA astronaut corps. Kate received a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and a Ph.D. in cancer biology. Selected by “Popular Science” magazine as one of its “Brilliant 10” in 2009, Kate was a Fellow and Principal Investigator at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before becoming a member of the 20th NASA astronaut class. Kate Rubins’ acceptance speech
Elizabeth Keller Bierman
B.S., Iowa State University
M.S., Iowa State University
M.B.A., Bentley University
When Elizabeth Bierman was in fourth grade, she brought her lunch to school in an astronaut lunchbox, a sign of her passion for space. She was a shy 12-year-old when she came to Space Academy®, and it was here that she met other trainees with the same fascination with space and science as she had. It’s also where she first understood that engineers are “problem solvers,” she said, and Space Academy launched an interest that led Elizabeth to study aerospace and systems engineering at Iowa State University. A senior project engineer at Honeywell Aerospace in Minneapolis, Elizabeth is also the recent past president of the Society of Women Engineers. When she talks with groups about how she became interested in engineering, “it all goes back to that lunch box and going to Space Camp,” Elizabeth said. Elizabeth Bierman’s acceptance speech
B.A, The Julliard School
M.A., The Julliard School
A three-time alumna of Space Academy®, Susanna Phillip’s reach for the stars takes place on the stage. One of the opera world’s rising sopranos, Susanna has appeared with leading orchestras around the globe and has made numerous appearances with the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Santa Fe Opera, just to name a few. She has won some of the world’s most prestigious vocal competitions and awards, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Beverly Sills Artist Award in 2010. Susanna is also the co-founder of Twickenham Fest, a chamber music festival that brings world-class musicians to her hometown each August. Susanna Phillips’ acceptance speech
B.S., University of Washington
M.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
As a child, Bobak Ferdowsi was fascinated with science fiction and engineering. His favorite toys were LEGOS, and he had notebooks full of his car designs. As he got older, his interests turned to space, and he made a trip to Space Academy® at the age of 14. Two degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering followed, as well as a career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where Bobak was flight director on the Mars Curiosity team. As the world watched the historic landing of the rover on Mars, Bobak stood out as a colorful member of Mission Control. His Mohawk haircuts with stars and lettering cut into the side caught the attention of social media and even President Obama, who dubbed Bobak “Mohawk Guy.” Bobak is now helping plan a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s many moons. Bobak Ferdowsi’s acceptance speech
Los Angeles, California, and Izmir, Turkey
BS in Civil Engineering, University of California at Berkeley
MBA in International Business, University of Southern California
Kaya was inspired to build a Space Camp in his native country of Turkey after learning about the opportunity in 1996 at a meeting about technology transfer with Turkish-American NASA engineer Ismail Akbay. At its opening in June 2000, Kaya dedicated Space Camp Turkey as a “Gift to the Youth of the World.” Since then, more than 150,000 youth and adults from 50 countries have attended the camp. Born and raised in Turkey, Kaya came to California at the age of 19 to pursue an education. The pinnacle of his successful career as a businessman and builder was in his home country when he established the Aegean Free Zone in 1990. This 500-acre industrial park in Izmir, Turkey, has attracted foreign investment from top international companies, created more than 20,000 jobs, and is the home of Space Camp Turkey. In 2002, Kaya established the nonprofit Global Friendship Through Space Education foundation, and has provided scholarships to more than 5,300 young people from 27 countries to attend Space Camp Turkey. In recognition of his philanthropic efforts, Kaya was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2004. Kaya Tuncer’s acceptance speech
MA, Technische Universität, Accademia Aeronautica
Samantha is a 1995 alumna of Space Camp in Huntsville, Captain in the Italian Air Force and currently an astronaut with the European Space Agency. Samantha graduated from the Italian Air Force Academy in Pozzuoli, Italy in 2005. From 2005 to 2006, she was based at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, USA. After completing the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, she became a fighter pilot and was assigned to the 132nd Squadron, 51st Bomber Wing, based in Istrana, Italy. From 2007 to 2008, she flew the MB-339 and served in the Plan and Operations Section for the 51st Bomber Wing in Istrana, Italy. In 2008, she joined the 101st Squadron, 32nd Bomber Wing, based at Foggia, Italy, where she completed operational conversion training for the AM-X ground attack fighter. Samantha has logged more than 500 hours flying six types of military aircraft: SF-260, T-37, T-38, MB-339A, MB-339CD and AM-X. Samantha was selected as an European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut in May 2009 and completed basic astronaut training in November 2010. In July 2012 she was assigned to an Italian Space Agency ASI mission aboard the International Space Station – Expedition 42/43, to be launched on a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in December 2014. This will be the second long-duration ASI mission and the eighth long-duration mission for an ESA astronaut. Samantha is currently completing her training on International Space Station (ISS) systems, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, robotics and spacewalks. When not in training in the USA, Russia, Canada or Japan, Samantha is based at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. Samantha Cristoforetti acceptance speech.
Purdue University, Embry-Riddle Astronautical University
Michelle Ham is a 1991 and 1994 alumna of Space Camp in Huntsville, and former NASA Johnson Space Center employee. Michelle spent 10 years working at NASA for a contractor primarily in International Space Station (ISS) Flight Control as an Operations Planner and also as an Astronaut Instructor in the Daily Operations Group teaching astronauts about the Operations Local Area Network (Ops LAN) – the computer system, and the Inventory and Stowage System onboard ISS. During this time, Michelle trained nearly every astronaut in the corps for their expeditionary flight to ISS or their space shuttle flight to ISS. Michelle was also responsible for large portions of technical and basic instructional training for flight controllers and instructors not just in the U.S. but also at all of the International Partners as well. A few years ago, Michelle decided that she has a passion for inspiring students and chose to leave her work at JSC to become an independent consultant. Since then, she has done extensive work with the International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET) to inspire students about the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects through the use of space. Michelle has been instrumental in the creation of Mission Discovery and various leadership programs offered by ISSET. She is currently the Founder/President of Higher Orbits which is focused on inspiring students through space curriculum in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. Michelle Ham’s acceptance speech
BS, Florida State University, University of Florida
For self-described science geek and adventure-seeker, Stephanie Abrams, Space Camp was an obvious destination. She was hooked on science before camp and well before attending college, but it would be the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that would lead her to a meteorology class at the University of Florida and the true passion of her life…weather. Abrams joined the team at The Weather Channel shortly after college as an on-camera Meteorologist and is now among the most recognized faces on television. Naturally gregarious, Stephanie is keenly aware of the unique platform she has to influence young people interested in STEM professions. She has artfully combined her passion, personality, and social media savvy to extend both her appeal and reach in making science cool. Stephanie Abrams is known for her fearless approach to life and learning and happily shares her discoveries with the world. Stephanie Abrams’ acceptance Speech
BS, PhD, University of California Davis
“Liz” Warren always knew she wanted to be an astronaut, a dream she pursues to this day. Her hallmark is that she is not just dreaming the dream, she is working it. Already passionate about space and science, Warren took away other critical life skills from Space Camp – leadership and teamwork – and has applied them throughout an already brilliant career. Dr. Warren holds a Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology and is an expert at NASA Johnson Space Center, where she studies the effects of space flight on the human body. Today, Dr. Warren is the ISS Program Science Communications Lead working to communicate the research accomplishments of the International Space Station. Aside from contributing to the health, safety and comfort of the ISS crew, Warren spends about 100 volunteer hours every year speaking to students and teachers through NASA’s educational outreach efforts. Dr. Warren’s enthusiasm for space exploration is matched only by her devotion to inspiring the students now following her into a career in aerospace. Liz Warren’s acceptance Speech
BS, University of Michigan
“Right Stuff” recipient Ed Van Cise knew before his trip to Space Camp that NASA would be the where of his future. But it was Apollo 16 Moonwalker Charlie Duke’s presentation at Camp that led him to the how and what. Van Cise left that week knowing that he wanted to be an Aerospace Engineer, and eventually work at Johnson Space Center in Mission Control. And not long after, that is exactly where he was. Van Cise committed to his path and is the 78th Flight Director in NASA’s history. Since taking the call sign “Carbon Flight,” Ed has worked as Lead Flight Director for several different aspects of the International Space Station. Ed Van Cise methodically pursued his dream, earning awards and commendations for leadership, as well as respect from his peers. He continues that dream, today, fully dedicated to NASA and the future of human space exploration. Ed Van Cise’s acceptance Speech
BS, California Polytechnic State University
Retired U.S. Navy Captain and Space Shuttle Commander, Robert “Hoot” Gibson is an aeronautical engineer, test pilot, astronaut, and world record holder, and among the very best friends of Space Camp and Aviation Challenge. A rare mixture of affability, self-effacing humor, and a little hero swagger, combined with the authenticity that is born of an exceptional life, Hoot is the real deal. Gibson is a veteran of five shuttle missions, a recipient of numerous honors, awards, and decorations including the DOD Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and numerous international medals including the Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal, as well as a member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame. But, it isn’t Gibson’s resume that lands him in the Space Camp Hall of Fame. Instead it is his genuine, active dedication to its people and programs. Because he happily and effectively endorses Space Camp and Aviation Challenge selflessly offering his time and attention to any and all, Hoot Gibson is chief among our friends. Hoot Gibson’s acceptance Speech
BA, Harvard University
PhD, Georgia State University
Assistant Director of Science for Communications at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland. In her current role, Michelle represents all of NASA’s science themes, from Earth science, the Sun and space weather, solar system exploration, all the way out to cosmology and the deep universe. Dr. Thaller attended Space Camp in the early 1980’s. She’s being inducted into the Space Camp Alumnus category. Induction Video Acceptance Speech
Dr. Valerie Meyers, is a board certified toxicologist in the Space Life Science Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She studied under Dr. Terry Bray in the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering where she helped prepare the dynamically controlled protein crystal growth experiment for flight on STS-105. Dr. Meyers graduated from the lab of Dr. Jay McDonald, where she studied the effects of modeled microgravity on bone-forming precursor cells. Dr. Meyers both attended Space Camp in the early 90’s and later worked as a crew trainer prior to completing her education and moving forward with her career. She’s being inducted into the Former Staff category. Induction Video Acceptance Speech
Chief of Operations, Flight Test Execution Directorate, Missile Defense Agency, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. In his current position, Lt Col Hare leads 100+ personnel in the day to day operations of a Joint Service Test Management and Execution Directorate. His Directorate is responsible for the system level flight testing of the US Ballistic Missile Defense System. A US Air Force Space and Missile Operations Officer, Lt Col Hare has operations experience with the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) weapon system. Lt Col Hare has additional Operations, Maintenance and Staff Experience at Unit, Major Command and Joint Service levels. Lt Col Hare attended Space Camp in the 1980’s and worked at Aviation Challenge and Space Camp as a young adult. He left Aviation Challenge upon being called to active duty in the Air Force where he continues to make his contributions to our country. He’s being inducted into the Space Camp Alumnus Category. Induction Video Acceptance Speech
Although originally from Manchester England, Francis French has spent more than a decade working to make science and technology accessible and understandable to family audiences in museums and science centers here in the United States. Mr. French, a former SPACE ACADEMY LEVEL II trainee, showed an early and significant interest in space and space history. So, it is no surprise that his professional endeavors have been primarily focused on Spaceflight and Astronomy. His work has included regular collaborations with NASA, retired astronauts, notable astronomers, and astronomical observatories around the world. Having worked as the Director of Events with Sally Ride Science and Director of Education for the San Diego Air & Space Museum, it is no wonder that Mr. French is a sought-after contributor of articles to aerospace magazines primarily in the area of manned spaceflight history. In addition to being the co-author of both Into that Silent Sea and In the Shadow of the Moon, Mr. French also designed a banner that flew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on its final successful mission. As a SPACE ACADEMY graduate, Francis French has remained true to his first love and continues to pursue his passion to the benefit of thousands of lifelong learners. Induction Video Acceptance Speech
Eagle Scout and former SPACE CAMP® trainee and crew trainer, David Hnyda, was part of the SPACE CAMP family for more than a decade. Although that time included him having the distinction of being a Right Stuff winner as both trainee and crew trainer, his life since SPACE CAMP is surely the envy of every AVIATION CHALLENGE® trainee that has ever attended. While earning his degree in Mechanical Engineering, Major Hnyda was in Army ROTC. He began early making his mark by completing the Army’s Airborne, Air Assault, and Northern Warfare Schools. Following graduation, Major Hnyda joined the Air Calvary flying the OH-58D helicopter. He has spent the last decade and more than 1,150 combat hours serving in support of the Iraq War as an Air Mission Commander. Most recently, Major Hnyda was selected as a member of Class 139 at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. U.S. Army Major David Hnyda has a long history of distinguishing himself at every turn and is living proof that dreams are made of vision, dedication and hard work. Induction Video Acceptance Speech
Danny Jaques has been a science teacher at Ignacio Junior High School for nearly twenty-five years. For more than half of those years, he has been a veritable dynamo and perhaps SPACE CAMP’s most effective un-official ambassador. A life-long resident of Colorado, Danny has worked tirelessly to ensure that the children in that area are not only aware of SPACE CAMP – but have the opportunity to take advantage of the educational opportunities it offers. As a Life Member of the National Science Teacher Association, President of the Ignacio Community Historical Society, member of the Mars Society, and Teacher Liaison Officer for the U.S. Space Foundation, Danny somehow found time to establish the Jaquez Rocket Ranch and Ignacio Space Camp. Danny’s organization has, over the years, helped literally hundreds of students attend SPACE CAMP. His natural optimism, enthusiasm and utter “joie de vive” make Danny a magnet for anyone that shares an interest in space and aviation. He is a true friend to SPACE CAMP and to all the young people whose lives are touched by his irrepressible spirit Induction Video Acceptance Speech
To say that former ADVANCED SPACE ACADEMY® crew trainer, Andrea Hanson, has been persistent in pursuing her interest in Science and Engineering may be the greatest of understatements. Although Dr. Hanson’s enthusiasm for Space Life Science began during her freshman year at college, she credits her time spent as an instructor at SPACE CAMP as the launch pad for her research career in that field. Following an internship with Boeing Satellite Systems, Dr. Hanson worked as a graduate student with BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado. It was here that she realized the dream of so many trainees, when five years of research culminated in a space shuttle experiment that flew aboard STS-118 in August of 2007. Today, Dr. Hanson continues her relentless pursuit as a post-doctoral research scientist and engineer in the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her primary efforts are focused on developing technology to monitor musculoskeletal health in astronauts during long-duration space missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Dr. Hanson is a walking testament to what is produced at the fantastic intersection of drive, determination and passion and is a role model for anyone with a dream. Induction Video Acceptance Speech
As the accessibility coordinator at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Jim Allan may be custom made to be the wizard behind the curtain of SPACE CAMP® for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCI-VIS). He has served in that capacity for almost 20 years. In addition to maintaining the SCI-VIS website and coordinating the attendance of more than 200 blind and visually impaired students to SPACE CAMP, Jim serves as the technical expert for the program. Jim’s expertise supported SPACE CAMP’s development of mission software usable by blind and visually impaired students. It is no wonder that Jim adds the SPACE CAMP Hall of Fame honor to the other state, national and international honors he has received for his significant contributions to the visually impaired community and a more accessible world. Induction Video Acceptance Speech
Both legend and mentor to an entire generation of AVIATION CHALLENGE trainees and staff members, Retired U.S. Army Veteran, Sergeant Major Gleason is part of the reason AVIATION CHALLENGE enjoys such a high number of repeat trainees. Having proudly served his country for 30 years, he has spent his retirement serving the USSRC as an employee and as a volunteer. A highly-decorated combat veteran and survival expert, SGM Gleason is the author of the AVIATION CHALLENGE Land Survival training and has inspired more than a few young men and women to follow their dreams of pursuing a military career. As a 4-time Bronze Star recipient, 3-time Purple Heart recipient, and a 2-time Meritorious Service Medal recipient, SGM is more than merely authentic. To those who proudly wear the AVIATION CHALLENGE wings, SGM Jerry Gleason is the bona fide, genuine article. Induction Video Acceptance Speech
An accomplished journalist, sought-after space history expert and respected appraiser of space memorabilia, Robert Pearlman was one of the first to recognize the Internet as a means of promoting space exploration. A six-time SPACE CAMP graduate that has successfully turned his passion into his profession, Pearlman has spent the past decade developing into the leading online publication and community for space history enthusiasts. Prior to his current roles as collectSPACE editor and contributing writer for SPACE.com, Pearlman created and worked on numerous other websites, including the award-winning Ask An Astronaut and the original BuzzAldrin.com, the official website of the Apollo 11 moonwalker. A board member and advisor to numerous foundations and boards dedicated to space including the National Space Society, Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) and the U.S. Space Walk of Fame, Robert Pearlman possesses a rare combination of zeal, expertise and vision and continues to be an avid supporter and effective advocate of the space program. Induction Video Acceptance Speech
One of the original members of the von Braun Rocket Team, Holderer not only helped put men on the moon but also made it possible for thousands of would-be astronauts to learn all about space travel. His realistic design of such SPACE CAMP® mainstays as the Multi-Axis Trainer, the 5DF, and the 1/6th gravity trainer have allowed more than half a million youngsters over two decades to experience astronaut training on equipment modeled after actual NASA training equipment. Holderer is also responsible for helping ensure that millions of Alabama visitors traveling I-65 are greeted by a Saturn IB Rocket proudly proclaiming Alabama’s place in history as the Birthplace of Manned Space Flight. Induction Video
A devoted career educator, Mrs. Maicki does more than teach…she inspires. As a fifth grade science teacher at Detroit’s Country Day School, she is legendary for her insistence that science be learned not from a text book, but by doing, seeing, and experiencing. 2009 marked 22 consecutive years that Mrs. Maicki has led her entire 5th grade class – and most of their parents – on an annual trek to SPACE CAMP. With “the heart of a child and the creativity and drive of an award-winning teacher,” she has inspired literally thousands of students to dream big and to work to make those dreams a reality. Induction Video
As a child, she put glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling and dreamed of working in the space program. As a teenager, she attended SPACE ACADEMY® and began a hot pursuit of her childhood dream. As a young adult, she continued that pursuit and shared her love of space as an Advanced Space Academy® crew trainer. Today, Lisa DeVries is a wife and mother of two and a member of Operations Safety at Kennedy Space Center. She has realized the dream…she has been among the last to leave the launch pad prior to each shuttle mission – and one of the first on the runway upon the shuttle’s return. As the voice that gives the safety “go-no go” for Launch Control, DeVries is living her dream. Induction Video
BS, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
An 8-time trainee, former crew trainer, and current volunteer, Vincent Vazzo could have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in any of the three nominee categories. Vincent, the brain and energy behind the original, unofficial, SPACE CAMP social network, Hab1.com, never veered from the path to making the space program his career. Today, Vincent works for United Space Alliance as part of the Imagery Analysis Team at the Marshall Space Flight Center. His team provides NASA the imagery and communications tools to gather and organize information about liftoff debris enabling better and faster assessments of potential damage during a mission to ensure the safety of both craft and crew. Induction Video
Although an alumnus of SPACE CAMP, Florida, and SPACE ACADEMY, USSRC, Phillip Smith found his calling somewhere between Earth and space. The would-be astronaut pursued a career in military aviation and landed what may be the dream job of many a young man or woman. Major Smith was an F-15E pilot stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. After serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom – and not satisfied with just any dream job, Major Smith secured perhaps the ultimate dream job. He served as an Air Combat Command Strike Eagle Demonstration Team pilot and Commander spending his days showcasing America’s F-15E Strike Eagle to more than seven million people across the world. No doubt about the accomplishments of Major Phillip A. “Ritz” Smith as he is only the second Air Force pilot ever chosen to be a demo pilot for this amazing machine. Currently, Major Smith is assigned to the 353rd Combat Training Squadron flying the F-16 as an Aggressor Pilot at Eielson AFB, Alaska. Induction Video
Josh Whitfield was an all-American boy growing up playing football, baseball and golf, but it would be his long held fascination for the military and aviation that led him to become an AVIATION CHALLENGE trainee – 13 times. As a trainee, Josh earned the coveted Right Stuff Award 5 times and twice won the Top Gun Award. However, it is Army Specialist Whitfield’s valor and service that have earned him his spot in the Hall of Fame. As a gunner on one of the Army’s Stryker armored combat vehicles, Josh was twice injured during firefights to liberate the area of Hadar in the Iraq War. Today, Josh has come back home to Aviation Challenge as a crew trainer. He returns as a Bronze Star recipient… and a true American Hero. Induction Video
Inspired by the Science Fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, Dr. Wernher von Braun studied the works of German Rocketeer, Herman Oberth, to make science fact out of science fiction. Dr. von Braun was the leader of the German Rocket Team that was brought to America following WWII and directed the efforts of the scientists and engineers that put mankind on the moon forever marking his spot in world history as the Father of Manned Space Flight. The original Director of NASA and the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Dr. von Braun knew that America and the world would need a new generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to ensure the continuation of his dream of manned travel beyond the moon. It was this knowledge along with Dr. von Braun’s rare combination of scientific genius, marketing savvy, and personal charisma that allowed him to envision and plant the seed that would grow into the world’s most recognized museum education program – SPACE CAMP®. Induction Video
Selected by Wernher von Braun in 1970 to serve as the first ever Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center®, former NASA Public Affairs Officer, Edward O. Buckbee, has forever changed the face of Museum Education. In addition to assembling and managing the world’s largest space history museum and rocket collection, Buckbee brought to life von Braun’s vision by founding SPACE CAMP and later its sister program, AVIATION CHALLENGE®. Buckbee has spent more than 40 years championing all things space. Since retiring from the USSRC in 1994, Buckbee has continued that effort as an author, lecturer, and full-time space advocate working tirelessly to increase the public’s understanding of America’s role in the development of technology. Induction Video
Born to German-Scottish parents, Dr. Georg von Tiesenhausen was more than a witness to history…he was one of its designers. Dr. von Tiesenhausen joined von Braun’s Rocket Team in 1943 and immediately became one of its critical parts. He continued that role at NASA and, more than 20 years after his retirement, NASA still uses many of the components he designed. However, it is what he’s done since his retirement that has made him one of the most cherished and integral parts of SPACE CAMP – past and present. Dr. von T, as he is affectionately known to thousands of students from around the world, has spent more than 22 consecutive years volunteering as a guest lecturer at SPACE CAMP. A gifted teacher, Dr. von T is able to discuss such subjects as the time-space continuum so that even the youngest student understands and appreciates the lesson. SPACE CAMP has no greater friend than Dr. Georg von Tiesenhausen.
As the heart, soul, and mind of SPACE CAMP for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCI-VIS), Dan Oates is more than a “friend” to SPACE CAMP – he is a champion. For 20 years, Oates has surrendered his summers and free time to bring to life this very special program. With a gift for drawing into his world the very best in the field of education for blind and visually impaired students, Dan has enlisted an army of teachers and specialists to make SCI-VIS possible and to bring these very special children out of their comfort zone and immerse them into the world of tomorrow. Today, a child who has never seen his mother’s face can launch the space shuttle and guide it safely home again. Oates has always given of himself – and to more than 2,200 students he has given perhaps the greatest gift of all, confidence…confidence in themselves and in their abilities. Induction Video
Although a trip to SPACE ACADEMY at the age of 14 opened up a world of possibilities for Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, it was a question from one of her 8th grade Astronomy students that really changed her life. It was the age-old question of “how do astronauts use the bathroom in space,” that led the young teacher to NASA’s website where the Educator Astronaut position had just been posted. Metcalf-Lindenburger had long been a science enthusiast and considers herself a sort of teacher for all people; the opportunity could not have been more perfect. So when she was selected as the youngest member of the 2004 Educator Astronaut Candidate Class, it was literally a dream come true. Today, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger has completed her Astronaut Training and has been assigned to STS-131 as a Mission Specialist aboard the Orbiter Discovery scheduled for launch in 2010. Induction Video
Believing that exploration is the lifeblood of a civilization, Astrogeologist Dr. Jim Rice has always interested in science and the history’s great explorers. Today, he is both…scientist and explorer. Rice started his journey as a SPACE CAMP crew trainers in 1985 and used his location and passion to endear himself to a group of Marshall Space Flight Center engineers. The engineers did more than befriend Rice; they helped him obtain an internship with NASA in which he helped select a landing site for a project that would send the first robot to Mars. Today, Dr. Rice is one of the Science Team Members for Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and is the man behind the camera onboard Mars Odyssey – targeting the camera and analyzing the fantastic photos that are returned. Dr. Jim Rice spends his days, literally, looking for life on Mars. Induction Video
A former trainee and camp crew trainer (1995 – 2000), Amanda Stubblefield went from training students at space camp and aviation challenge to training astronauts at nasa’s Johnson Space Center. It was the 1983 launch of Challenger, aboard which flew the first American woman astronaut, that sealed Stubblefield’s fate. Although only 8 at the time of that historic launch, she knew before Challenger disappeared from sight that she would be a part of the Space Program. With an engineering degree in hand, Amanda worked diligently to ensure that she was on the path to fulfilling her childhood dreams. Stubblefield has realized those dreams and today serves as an instructor for the astronauts and cosmonauts who will fly to the International Space Station. Induction Video
Penny Pettigrew has always been interested in the space program but freely admits she had no idea what she wanted to do with her chemistry degree until she attended SPACE CAMP. She never thought of working for NASA and considered the space agency as a place reserved for astronauts only, but a trip to the Adult SPACE CAMP program while still in college opened a world of new possibilities. After leading the Ares I First Stage Systems Engineering and Integration Team in support of NASA’s cancelled Constellation Program, Penny now works in the Payloads Integration and Operations Center located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as a Payloads Communications Manager (PAYCOM). As a PAYCOM, Penny is responsible for talking to the astronauts who are currently living and working on the International Space Station to assist them with their daily science activities. Penny says this job is just like being at Space Camp but the real thing! As a PAYCOM, Penny relies upon one simple fundamental… teamwork. Not only does Pettigrew consider teamwork to be the cornerstone of the manned space flight program, but also lists it as “Lesson 1” at SPACE CAMP. Induction Video