PMHS junior completes Advanced Space Academy at U.S. Space and Rocket Center, wins Right Stuff award


Robbie Shepherd space suited up at Advanced Space Academy.

Robbie Shepherd, a junior at Pelham Memorial High School, completed Advanced Space Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, participating in numerous space-elated simulations. They earned the Right Stuff Award, which is given to a trainee who goes above and beyond to make their team’s week at the academy a success.

This summer was Shepherd’s second year attending Space Camp after discovering the program while watching a Netflix documentary.

“I’ve been interested in space pretty much my entire life,” Shepherd said. “My earliest memory of that interest is when I was around two or three, when my mom took me to see a 3D IMAX movie about the International Space Station.” Shepherd’s love for aeronautics and astronomy has prompted them to work towards becoming an astronaut with the goal of voyaging to Mars.

The Rocket Center is a Smithsonian affiliate and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s official visitor center.

Shepherd spent six days at the camp, participating in simulations that included two space shuttle missions and one extended-duration Mars mission. Campers also completed engineering challenges, such as building a heat shield for an egg and a spacesuit for an apple, along with constructing and launching rockets. Shepherd also experienced the multi axis trainer, which simulates a tumble-spin in a spacecraft (see picture), and completed simulations replicating lunar gravity and one that used scuba diving to mimic zero gravity.

Robbie Shepherd on the multi axis trainer.

“We also were given many presentations about different subjects in space, such as space history, space law and astronomy,” Shepherd said. “We even had an astronaut come in and speak to us about his experience on the space shuttle and International Space Station.”

The Right Stuff Award is given to a trainee who goes “out of this world” to make their team’s experience at the camp a success. The award is named after the Tom Wolfe book that documented the Mercury program.

Shepherd hopes to take everything learned at Space Camp and apply it towards becoming an astronaut headed toward Mars, learning about the “specifics of what it takes to be an astronaut candidate, and the paths I can take to get there.”