“Houston, do you read me?” TAG students complete space mission

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015

 Sisters Adeline Fischer (left) and Carley Tillman (right) prepare for the shuttle mission. | Courtesy photo

Sisters Adeline Fischer (left) and Carley Tillman (right) prepare for the shuttle mission. | Courtesy photo

“Houston, we have a problem.”

Fifth graders from Andalusia Elementary School’s Talented and Gifted Program (TAG) recently got to experience what those famous words from the Apollo 13 moon flight meant. The students traveled to Huntsville to the Space and Rocket Center for Space Camp last week.

Sponsor Barbara Peek said the students divided into three teams, each of which learned about the space program and participated in a space mission that required a lot of teamwork.

“It is a wonderful, perfect blend of learning and fun,” Peek said. “They get to learn about the space program, which is very important to understand Alabama’s place in the program.”

Additionally, students learned about the Mercury missions and more.

Students took part in simulated missions, had the opportunity to wear spacesuits, and became mission specialists, among other jobs.

“It is an amazing experience,” Peek said. “An astronaut might not be something students here think of becoming. This also exposes them to careers such as mission control specialists and pilots. They get to see something they don’t get to see here.”

This is the TAG program’s eighth year of participating the space camp program, which also allows the students to spend the night on campus.

One of the AES teams won the Solar Flare Award, which is given to the team with outstanding spirit.

Peek said the teams were scored and evaluated for making a mission patch, how well they did on their missions and how well they worked together through anomalies.

Everette Thompson said his favorite part of the camp was the MAT – or Multi-access trainer.

“It helps you to feel like you’re going into space,” he said. “I thought that was cool.”

Trevor Hayes said his favorite part was the mission.

“It was most chaotic,” he said. “We had no commander. We got to float in space.”

Hayes served as a mission specialist.

Anna Duffy agreed the mission was the most fun.

“We got to go out and float in an EVA, which is an extravehicular activity,” she said. “We got to put on a spacesuit, too.”

Ji Yoon Kim participated in the International Space Station portion, where she was instrumental in helping with her team’s mission patch.

Amanda Major said she enjoyed the Davidson Center.

“There was a big Saturn 5 rocket that was as long as the building,” she said. “I liked seeing the details of it.”

Matthew Faircloth had the opportunity to be the commander on a mission.

“I got to control it and land it,” he said. “I also go to deal with most of the anomalies.”

Faircloth said there were different panels for which he had to figure out, with the help of mission control, which switch to push.

“It would make a beeping noise and red lights would blink,” he said. “A person in mission control would give directions.”

Peek, who was in mission control, said that portion was stressful.

“You had to look at the screen and give instructions based on the temperature,” she said. “You had to be patient and work as a team.”

Faircloth said he actually got to say, “Houston, we have a problem.”