SIDNEY — Wapakoneta native Neil Armstrong became a worldwide icon 50 years ago when he became the first person to step on the moon.
Cloe Crothers, 13, of Sidney, is hoping to follow in Armstrong’s footsteps by being part of a NASA mission that returns to the moon — or further into space to Mars.
The daughter of Kim and Warren Melerine, of Sidney, and Justin and Kerri Crothers, of Marysville, Cloe recently returned from Space Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The center is also home of Space Camp, Space Camp Robotics, Aviation Challenge, U.S. Cyber Camp and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s Official Visitor Center.
“I’ve had an interest in space since the fifth grade,” said Cloe, who is entering the eighth-grade at Sidney Middle School in the fall. “I want to be a pilot (after graduation).”
The Melerines dropped Cloe off on the first day of camp. They didn’t see her again until camp was over.
The group — Camp Pandora — stayed in a replica of the space station.The four-floor building housed seven people in each room. There were three habitats in the complex for the campers.
And there was no elevator in the building, so campers got their exercise going up and own the stairs each day.
“There were four floors of the habitat,” said Cloe.
The first and second levels were boy campers only; the third floor was mixture of boy and girl campers; and the fourth floor was girls only.
“We built a rocket while we were at camp,” said Cloe. “That was my favorite thing we did.”
Three other campers assisted with the project, she said. On launch day, theirs was the only rocket that didn’t go into the trees.
“The rocket goes into the hall of fame if it goes into the trees or across the river,” she said. “That’s because you can’t go get them.
“Ours went straight up and the parachute didn’t come out. So then it went straight down,” she said.
They also learned about the importance of a heat shield on a rocket.
“The rocket had a heat shield on it that when you put a torch to it,” she said. “It had to last more than 2 minutes before burning up. Mine lasted 53 seconds.”
They also learned about the magnetic field of the sun and played space-related games.
She also experienced zero gravity during a ride on a simulator which spun around and flipped-flopped.
“We also suited up for a mission,” said Cloe. “You go out and sat on a chair that fills up with water. We were then 1/6 of our body weight.”
The campers also built a solar panel during the week.
When Cloe was in the fifth-grade she was introduced to space by her teacher, Christina Eilerman.
“I learned a lot about space in her class,” said Cloe. “She encouraged me to learn more about space.”
Each camper wore a blue space suit. They were given a space camp patch, which was worn upside down on their suit. At graduation, the counselor flipped it right-sides up.
The campers also attempted to build an octagon during one of the classes.
“We went to a lake and had pieces that we were supposed to make an octagon out of,” said Cloe. “You had five minutes to make it and connect it to other people’s octagons. I made mine in 10 minutes.
“Teamwork was the main focus of the project,” she said.
The campers were from South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, California, Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, German, Guam and Australia.
In addition to learning about space, the campers also learned about food.
“There were categories for food for every meal,” said Cloe. “One day lunch would be Mexican food and dinner would be Mediterranean food. We also had Italian and French food.”
Cloe said the weather in Alabama was “hot” when she was there.
“It was 101 degrees one day. Most days it was in the upper 90s,” she said. “And it was humid.”
Their days began at 6:30 a.m. and ended with lights out at 10 p.m.
“During the evening, we would do trivia or build satellites out of straws,” she said. “We stayed on campus the whole week.”
Cloe said she’s hoping to use some of the information she learned in science class this year.
There’s a museum at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Some of the things housed there are a space capsule, moon rock and the Airstream decontamination trailer that housed the Apollo 12 astronauts when they returned from their moon mission.
Last summer, Cloe attended an Air Camp at the University of Dayton. During that camp, she received a green suit to wear.
“I was able to fly a plane over Kings Island,” she said, noting that the pilot was assisting her during the flight.
Her life’s goal, said Cloe, is to be an aviator/pilot and to maybe join the Air Force.
“We think this is exciting for Cloe,” said Warren Melerine. “We’ve been impressed with all the camps she’s attended. For her to fly a plane over King’s Island as a 12-year-0ld is great. Her time with an instructor — the half hour flight — is time that will go toward her flight time.”
Next summer Cloe hopes to attend Aviation Camp in Huntsville.
“As she gets older, the camps are age-appropriate,” said Melerine. “They are more specialized. We’re excited for her.”
According to a press release from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the weeklong educational program promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), while training students and with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and problem solving.
This program is specifically designed for trainees who have a passion for space exploration. Cloe spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated space mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon or Mars. The crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk. Cloe and crew returned to earth in time to graduate with honors.
Space Camp operates year-round in Huntsville, Alabama, 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.
More than 850,000 trainees have graduated from a Space Camp program since its inception in Huntsville, Alabama, 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 is serving onboard the International Space Station. Children and teachers from all 50 states and almost 150 international locations have attended a Space Camp program.
Interested in training like an astronaut? Visit www.spacecamp.com or call 800-637-7223.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.