School is out and for many kids in Pope County that means no more homework, time to sleep in and vacation time. For Dustin Guyse and his son Stephen of Pottsville,summertime means taking the annual voyage to Alabama for Space Camp.

Dustin said he first heard about the Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama from a family member, and they have been going ever since. When it comes to space and science Stephen said it has been his passion for, “as long as can I remember.” His dad added, “He’s always been good with science and math and space in general. Stephen has surpassed me in the knowledge of it. I tried to hang with him for a while. He reads a lot about space. He’s done quite a bit with it; it’s been good for him.” Stephen talked about pursuing a career in science. “I’d like to work in the field of astronomy,” Stephen said.

They have attended camp several years together; this year was Stephen’s first time to attend solo. “He went to a five day camp and he enjoyed it,” Dustin said. “And he is willing to go back by himself.” Space Camp also offers three to four day family camps, and different levels of Space Academy and Aviation Challenges. “For Space Camp you have the family camps, the Space Academy and Advanced Space Camp,dz Dustin said. “They have the aviation challenge for adults too and schools can actually bring their kids. There was actually some schools from Arkansas last year.”

Space Camp is a great place to vacation for all ages.

“Family camp you can do pretty much at any age but you have to be at least seven to start and they put you through little missions and things like that,dz Dustin said. “Whereas the Space Academy it’s 12-14 year olds and they do more advanced missions and the instructors will give you more anomalies during the missions. They also have an underwater type cylinder with portholes where you can look in it and you get to put on scuba gear and experience basically no gravity like you would on the moon.”

“That’s for the advance level and during the winter,” Stephen added. “We’ll use the lake if it’s not during the winter.” Stephen said his favorite thing about camp this year was the simulators. “This time we did the space launch system and went to the moon,” Stephen said. “We also did the space shuttle mission.”

For the space missions each participant is given a script to read through and faced with a challenge.

“They have a set thing that they are going to say but then whoever is over the mission will give the Payload Communications Manager (PAYCOM) an anomaly, so something has happened,” Dustin said. “They will have to figure it out, talk with PAYCOM and the PAYCOM will help guide them through the error.” The PAYCOM is the voice of the Operations Center and coordinates communications between the Payload Operations Center and the Space Station crew.

During the camp, Stephen and the other space cadets can participate in exercises that replicate experiences in space. “We did the one-sixth gravity chair which stimulates gravity on the moon,” Stephen said. “Basically the premise of that is so you don’t jump too hard and don’t fly off the moon, but you’re basically just walking on the moon,” Dustin said. When asked what it felt like to do the gravity chair Stephen said, “It’s hard to explain. You’re not quite weightless, but it felt one-sixth—almost weightless.” “The floor is uneven like the surface of the moon to make it as realistic as possible–like you’re in a crater,” Dustin said. “I got stuck in a crater one time,” Stephen added.

Dustin pulled up a few photos on his phone from their trips to Space Camp. “That was one of the missions we did, we were Mission Specialists one and two,” Dustin said. “We would have to take these blocks that you see in the picture and arrange them to where it’s fixable. They give you a spatula and a can of shaving cream and you act like you are filling in voids in space shuttles. We are actually suspended in the air on the side of this space shuttle. That’s one of the photos he and I got before we went up there.”

Kids participating in the camp also have the opportunity to build rockets. “As you progress through the different Space Academy levels and advance the rockets get bigger,dz Dustin. “You get to build your own in advanced levels,” Stephen said. “We had to make the fins for our rockets.”

Another family favorite is the Aviation Family Challenge.

“We’ve done the aviation challenge which is more focused on aircraft, the four forces of flight and they put you through a top gun simulated challenge,” Dustin said. “They have these cockpits but without the top and you have all of your switches inside and big screen. So while you’re flying it looks like you are in a regular cockpit.”

During the Aviation Family Camp, the parents and kids will compete against each other in different challenges. “It was a cool competition, he really enjoyed that,” Dustin said. “I think that is what we are going to do next year since we’ve done the Space Camp the past couple of years.” Their shared experience at Space Camp has made lasting memories between father and son. “This has become our thing over the last several years,” Dustin said. “I enjoy it, maybe not as much as he does but I enjoy doing it with him. I work and travel a lot, so it’s nice to be able to do things like this.” Dustin mentioned how dedicated the staff were at Space Camp. “You have really good people up there that really have a passion and are typically kids in college,” Dustin said. “They are pursuing science, math, or even journalism. There are a lot of different groups up there.” “It’s a pretty cool experience,” he said.