• Chancellor

    Dr. Serena Auñón

    The George Washington University, B.S.
    University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, M.P.H
    University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, M.D.

    Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor’s Space Camp mission position as medical officer was prophetic. Fast forward 25 years, and Serena will be launching on a Soyuz rocket as a member of Expedition 58/59 to the International Space Station. Space Camp was more than a much-desired 16th birthday gift for Serena. It confirmed what she thought she already knew. She was going to be an astronaut. “I felt very confident walking out after that week,” she said. “It reaffirmed what I wanted to become.” Serena holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from The George Washington University and attended medical school at the University of Texas – Health Science Center at Houston. She is board certified in Internal and Aerospace Medicine and was a flight surgeon to both space shuttle and ISS astronauts before being selected for the 2009 Astronaut Class. In her own astronaut career, Serena has searched for meteorites in Antarctica and operated the Deep Worker submersible on the NEEMO 16 mission. She also served aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory during the NEEMO 20 undersea exploration mission. She is scheduled to launch to the ISS in November 2018.

  • Christensen

    Dr. Michelle Christensen

    University of Alabama in Huntsville, B.S.
    Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D.

    If her little brother hadn’t gotten sick on a trip to Disney World,Dr. Michelle Christensen might not be building rocket engines for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Her dad took 5-year-old Michelle to Kennedy Space Center for the day, and she remembers standing under a Redstone rocket and staring at the engine. She wanted to know how it worked. Her parents looked for every opportunity to encourage their daughter’s interests, and at 14, she flew across the country to Space Camp for the first time. “I remember getting to camp and meeting these kids from all over the world,” Michelle said. She had found her place. She came back in 11th grade and worked as a Space Camp crew trainer in college, which led her to transfer to the University of Alabama in Huntsville to study aerospace engineering. Through UAH, she got a research job at Marshall Space Flight Center and then went on to Pennsylvania State University for her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. Today, she’s at the cutting-edge of the commercial space industry helping build reusable rockets. She’s also found the same kind of teamwork environment she loved at Space Camp. “It’s being part of a group of people who were excited about the same thing I was excited about,” she said.

  • Hecker

    Major John Hecker

    B.A., Auburn University

    Major John Hecker’s career as a U.S. Marine Corps pilot started late, but it quickly took off. John was 29 when he got the call on Sept. 11, 2001, to report to Quantico for officer training. He had been told he was too old to join, but the terrorist attacks that day changed everything. John was soon learning to fly a C-130, the big, four-engine aircraft he would ultimately operate as part of the fabled Blue Angels squadron. His father’s U.S. Army career took John’s family in and out of Huntsville several times, and John spent many days of his childhood at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, first on nearly daily visits and later for Space Academy. “The U.S. Space & Rocket Center itself was a gigantic part of my childhood,” John said. In the Marines, he found the same kind of teamwork he remembered from Space Camp, and he revisited his team’s presenter role many times in the Blue Angels. In his three years on the squadron, he traveled almost 300 days a year, speaking to young people all over the country. His message was always to keep striving for what you want and to “recognize service to something greater yourself.” “It’s a great way to live your life,” he said.

  • Heldmann

    Dr. Jennifer Heldmann

    Colgate University, B.S.
    University of North Dakota, M.S.
    University of Colorado at Boulder, Ph.D.

    Dr. Jennifer Heldmann was in third grade when she looked through a telescope and saw the moon up close. This was an actual place with mountains and craters, and she was “blown away.” Jennifer has been looking up ever since. A planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, she is researching how we will one day live on the moon and Mars. Jennifer came to Space Camp her junior year in high school, a trip she still thanks her mom for making happen. “It was the first time I was surrounded by people like me,” she said. “I was in this place dedicated to space. It started to become a real thing.” Her work today takes her to hostile environments such as Antarctica to study water, and she works on space craft data, computer modeling and Earth analogs to help prepare for deep space flight. “It’s test before you fly, the Space Camp way,” Jen said. She has won many accolades in her career, including the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award and a NASA mentor award, but she counts the Space Camp Hall of Fame as her top achievement. “It’s like something that is instilled in your inner core of being since 10,” she said.