Campers came back to Earth during the last day of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum space camp, after launching rockets into the sky as their last activity on Friday.
Counting down from 10, the campers cheered on each child as they waited their turns to launch their rockets.
Building the rockets, feeling weightlessness in a swimming pool, designing mission patches, flying in a private plane and other hands-on activities gave campers the feeling they were astronauts in training during space camp.
“It gives them an idea of the kind of training the astronauts do,” Education Programming Specialist Katelyn Poland said, pointing out how many of the activities the campers participated in mimicked real astronaut training.
Benjamin Oldiges, 9, of Anna, said he was inspired by what he learned at space camp.
Learning about what forces keep a plane in the air and the landing on the moon, Ben said he wants to follow in the late Neil Armstrong’s footsteps.
“I want to discover it,” Ben said. “I want to be the first one on Mars — I want to go to space.”
Ben said his favorite part of camp was going in the simulators. He participated in a lunar landing simulator that made him feel like he was landing on the moon.
Also, he said he enjoyed the Wright Brothers flight landing, which allowed him to feel what it was like to fly an airplane.
Ben’s mother Krista Oldiges, said her son is very interested in space.
“This has been a great camp for him,” Oldiges said.
She said she was glad Ben was able to experience the camp, particularly the plane ride.
“Living in a rural community, it’s hard to find opportunities like this,” Oldiges said.
Lisa Davidson, of New Bremen, said her 10-year-old son Luke came to space camp for his second year.
“Last year was such a fantastic experience,” Davidson said, “we decided to come back.”
Davidson said Luke wrote a letter to an astronaut last year at camp, and NASA sent a package back to him with a letter and signed photograph of an astronaut.
“They offer a great program,” Davidson said. “It’s educational but fun. He’s having a blast.”
She said Luke comes home and talks about what he learned at space camp that day.
“He’s told us a lot about the different astronauts and space crafts,” Davidson said.
Luke said he enjoyed the camp.
“It’s really fun. I love it,” Luke said. “It’s a really cool place – rocketry and airplanes – it’s awesome.”
Christie Gulley, of East Lake, said her 10-year-old son, Elijah, has been understanding concepts related to physics since he started space camp.
“He gets an understanding of how things work,” Gulley said. “He’s learned problem solving skills — taking the big picture and breaking it into smaller parts.”
Gulley said the camp taught him more than just how to build a rocket. Instead of simply teaching the children how to build a rocket step by step, she said her son learned how and why the rockets work.
Along with many of the other campers, Elijah’s favorite part of camp was the plane ride. Gulley said Elijah came home with stories about what he saw in the air and what the pilot said to him during the ride.
“You don’t get this stuff in everyday life,” Gulley said.
Elijah’s grandmother, Bev Monnin, of Botkins, said she and Elijah were on a trip to the space museum when they saw information about the space camp program.
“We decided to give it a try,” Monnin said. “The first time, he was a little unsure.”
After Elijah’s first time at space camp, Monnin said Elijah could not wait to come back. This was his third year at the camp.