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. View his Space Camp Hall of Fame video here.
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. View her Space Camp Hall of Fame video here.
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. View his Space Camp Hall of Fame video here.
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. View the Space Camp Hall of Fame video here.
B.S., University of California, San Diego
Ph.D, Stanford University
Dr. Kate Rubins became the third Space Camp alumna to fly in space when she launched to the International Space Station in July 2016. Kate dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child and did chores around the house to earn her trip to Space Camp 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Purdue University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Michelle Lucas is a 1989, 1991 and 1994 alumna of Space Camp in Huntsville, former Space Camp Florida counselor and former NASA Johnson Space Center employee. Michelle spent 10 years working at NASA for a contractor on the Payload Safety Review Panel (PSRP), then 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. Additionally she was a Surface Support Team Member for NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) and a Crew Monitor for ISS Simulations. 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. She is also Founder/President of Higher Orbits which is focused on inspiring students through space curriculum in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects as well as launching their skills in leadership, team building and communications.
BS, Florida State University and 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.
Lara Elisabeth Warren
Ph.D., 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 living 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.
Edward A. Van Cise
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 currently 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. Edward 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.
Captain Robert "Hoot" Gibson
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 comes from living 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. In October 2013, Gibson was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame joining 218 other men and women air and space pioneers who have been inducted by the NAHF since its founding in 1962.
Dr. Michelle Thaller
BS, Harvard University
Ph.D., Georgia State University
Former “Right Stuff” recipient, Michelle Thaller knew it would take more than just a passion for astronomy and space science to achieve her dreams. Since earning degrees in Astrophysics from Harvard and Georgia State, Dr. Thaller has lived the dream of many Space Camp® trainees serving as an observer on the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, the ROSAT X-ray satellite and the International Ultraviolet Explorer. As a nationally recognized spokesperson for science and astronomy, she has been featured in displays and movies and is a regular host on various series for the History, National Geographic, and Discovery Channels. Dr. Thaller continues to extend her reach to thousands as the Assistant Director of Science for Communications at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center working to ensure NASA’s public outreach and education programs are exciting and ready to meet the challenges of changing media trends and public participation in science.
Valerie E. Meyers, PhD
BA, Texas A&M University
Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham
As a Space Camp® trainee, Valerie Meyers was inspired to pursue a career as a scientist. She later shared that inspiration with others as a Space Camp Crew Trainer. Since then, Dr. Meyers has engaged in some incredibly innovative work. She was part of the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering’s team readying an experiment for flight on STS-105; spent a summer in the Biotechnology group at NASA’s Johnson Space Center studying the effects of modeled microgravity on bone-forming precursor cells through a fellowship from NASA’s Graduate Student Researcher program; and remained committed to educational outreach. Perhaps Dr. Meyers’ most exciting work is her five-week study on immune suppression on an island in the Canadian Arctic used as a lunar/Martian analog. Today, she is a board certified toxicologist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and has no doubt secured her place in our collective future.
Lt. Col. William Burke Hare III, U.S. Air Force, Ret.
BA, Auburn University
MS, University of North Dakota
For Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and Eagle Scout Burke Hare, it all began by attending Space Camp® twice and later working as a Crew Trainer at Aviation Challenge® and Space Camp. In fact, Burke left his duties as an Aviation Challenge Crew Trainer upon being called to active duty in the U.S. Air Force. Burke credits much of his inspiration to pursue an Air Force career from his incredible experiences at Space Camp. Burke‘s Air Force career led him to command space and missile crews in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile weapon system. The Air Force also gave Burke the opportunity to experience additional Operations, Maintenance and Staff Experience in Space, Nuclear, Cyber and Missile Defense missions. Burke is an ardent supporter of Space Camp, Space Academy® and Aviation Challenge programs and passionately passes on his experiences to inspire the next generation. He was inducted into the Space Camp Hall of Fame under the Alumnus category.
BA, University of North London, England
PGCE, Brunel University
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 focused on spaceflight and astronomy. His work includes regular collaborations with NASA, retired astronauts, notable astronomers and astronomical observatories around the world. Having worked both as the Director of Events with Sally Ride Science and Director of Education for the San Diego Air & Space Museum, Mr. French is a sought-after contributor of articles to aerospace magazines, primarily in the area of manned spaceflight history. Mr. French is co-author of both Into that Silent Sea and In the Shadow of the Moon, and designed a banner that flew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on its final successful mission. Francis French has remained true to his first love and continues to pursue his passion to the benefit of thousands of lifelong learners.
MAJ. J. David Hnyda, U.S. Army
US Army, Snellville, Georgia
BS, Auburn University
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® Camp 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. In 2011, Major Hnyda graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, and is currently serving as an Experimental Test Pilot. 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.
Danny R. Jaques
BS, Fort Lewis College
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 to ensure that the children in that area have the opportunity to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered at Space Camp®. 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 helped 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.
Andrea M. Hanson, PhD
Lake Park, Minnesota
BS, University of North Dakota
MS University of Colorado
Ph.D, University of Colorado, Boulder
Former Advanced Space Academy® counselor, Andrea Hanson’s enthusiasm for Space Life Science began during her freshman year at college. However, Dr. Hanson credits her time as an instructor at Space Camp® 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. Her dreams were realized when five years of research culminated in a space shuttle experiment that flew aboard STS-118 in August of 2007. Today, Dr. Hanson is post-doctoral research scientist and engineer in the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, focusing on developing technology to monitor musculoskeletal health in astronauts during long-duration space missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.
BS, M.Ed., Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin
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 (SCIVIS). He has served in that capacity for almost 20 years. In addition to maintaining the SCIVIS 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.
SGM Jerry Gleason, Ret.
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 campers. Having proudly served his country for 30 years, he has spent his retirement serving the U.S. Space & Rocket Center® 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 four-time Bronze Star recipient, three-time Purple Heart recipient, and a two-time Meritorious Service Medal recipient, SGM Gleason is more than merely authentic. To those who proudly wear the Aviation Challenge wings, SGM Jerry Gleason is the bona fide, genuine article.
Houston, Texas (Hometown: West Orange, NJ)
University of Maryland, College Park
An accomplished journalist, sought-after space history expert and respected appraiser of space memorabilia, Robert Pearlman was on the first to recognize the internet as a means of promoting space exploration. Editor of collectSPACE.com, Robert attended Space Camp® six times between 1987 and 1993. He founded collectSPACE in July 1999 and has grown it into the leading community and online publication for space history enthusiasts. In addition to his work on collectSPACE, Robert is also a contributing writer for Space.com and Space News. Pearlman created and worked on numerous other websites, including the award-winning Ask An Astronaut. A board member and advisor to numerous space-related foundations, 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.
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.
West Bloomfield, Michigan
BS – Wayne State University / MAT – Oakland University
A devoted career educator, Mrs. Maicki does more than teach…she inspires. As a fifth grade science teacher and Dean of Students 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. As of 2014, Mrs. Maicki has marked 27 consecutive years of bringing 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.
BS, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
MS, Columbia Southern University
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, after having served ten years as a member of Space Operations Safety with the Space Shuttle Program at the Kennedy Space Center, Lisa DeVries is working with the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program as the Lead Safety Engineer responsible for supporting upgrades to the Crawler Transporters. Wife and mother of two, Lisa has realized the dream…she has been among the last to leave the launch pad prior to each shuttle mission, one of the first on the runway upon the shuttle’s return, and now supporting upgrades at the Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s next space program. As the voice that gives the safety “go-no go” for Launch Control, DeVries is living her dream.
BS, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
An eight-time Space Camp® trainee, former counselor 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. Vincent spent the final years of the Space Shuttle Program working for United Space Alliance (USA) as part of the Engineering Photographic Analysis Team at the Marshall Space Flight Center, writing software and analyzing launch footage. Today, he is back at NASA working on engineering software with Optical Sciences Corporation (OSC).
MAJ. Phillip A. "Ritz" Smith
BS, U.S. Air Force Academy
Although an alumnus of Space Camp, Florida, and Space Academy® at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, 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 the 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. There is no doubting 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.
Spc. Josh Whitfield, Ret.
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 five 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 counselor. He returns as a Bronze Star recipient… and a true American Hero.
Dr. Wernher von Braun
Technical University of Berlin, Charlottenburg
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®.
Edward O. Buckbee
P.I. Reed School of Journalism, West Virginia University
Selected by Wernher von Braun in 1970 to serve as the first 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.
Georg von Tiesenhausen
Riga, Latvia – Huntsville, Alabama
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 most important members. 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.
Romney, West Virginia
BS, Fairmont State College / M.Ed, University of Pittsburgh
As the heart, soul and mind of Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCIVIS), Dan Oates is more than a “friend” to Space Camp – he is a champion. For 25 years, Oates has surrendered his summers and his 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 specialist to make SCIVIS possible. With their help, SCIVIS continues to attract more and more students from all over the world. Today, more than 3,500 students have attended SCIVIS. Dan is retired from the West Virginia School for the Blind and works during the summer as an Education Program Manager to educate teachers at Space Camp.
Ft. Collins, Colorado
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. After completion of her astronaut training, Dottie was assigned to the STS-131 crew and flew to the International Space Station on the Space Shuttle Discovery in April 2010 – exactly twenty years to the month after graduating from Space Academy. Dottie is the first Space Camp graduate to reach space.
Dr. Jim Rice
BS, University of Alabama, MS, Northeast Louisiana University, Ph.D, Arizona State University
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® counselor 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, in addition to being an Associate Project Scientist on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission, Dr. Rice is a Science Team Member 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.
Cross Plains, Tennessee
BS, Vanderbilt University
MAS, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
A former trainee and 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 Sally Ride on Challenger that sparked her dreams and sealed her fate. Stubblefield has realized those dreams, working with nearly all crew members flying to ISS. In her time at NASA, she has trained crews and flight controllers to operate science experiments, life support systems and thermal equipment, and respond to spacecraft emergencies such as fires and cabin depressurization. She has also served as a certified ETHOS (Environmental and THermal Operating Systems) flight controller in ISS mission control. Most recently, Amanda has become an instructor and certified OSO (Operations Support Officer) flight controller responsible for helping ISS crews execute routine preventative maintenance as well as perform troubleshooting and repairs for unexpected failures on systems ranging from the toilet, to life support equipment, to the onboard computers and everything in between.
Penny J. Pettigrew
Chula Vista, California
BS, Colorado School of Mines
MS, University of Alabama Huntsville
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. Penny has supported several different projects at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center including the design of the Materials Science Research Rack, a science facility on board the ISS and NASA’s Ares Rocket Program where she served as the First Stage Systems Engineering and Integration Lead. However, Penny has found her true passion in her current position where she serves as a Space Station Payloads Communications Manager (PAYCOM) which really means she is one of the few people in the world who gets to talk to the astronauts who are living and working on the International Space Station to assist them with their daily science activities. Penny still credits Space Camp for providing the best training for her current position.