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  My diary from Space School
Updated 12 August 2004, 17.11
Catherine's at Nasa's Space School
Catherine from Wales is at the International Space School at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

She's there for two weeks with 39 other students from around the world, attending workshops and seminars by the world's leading astronauts and scientists.

In Catherine's diary she tells us what she's been learning at Space School and also what she's being doing just for fun - American style!


"Hey y'all,

It's my last day in America!

There are only three students left here now.

It was very upsetting, saying goodbye to all the wonderful friends that I've made here.

Meeting up again

Most of us shed a tear at least once last night at Mamacitas (a Mexican restaurant) - it was the last time that we would ever be all together!

Although many of us have already started to make plans for meeting up.

We finished all our projects on time, and even went to the cinema together in the evening.

First baseball game

On Saturday we had time to go shopping again in the American malls, and then in the evening we all went to see a baseball game, the Astros vs Montreal.

I had never seen a baseball game before, so it was a whole new experience!

It took me until the end of the game to figure out the rules.

Final mission

On Sunday we did our team presentations in the University of Houston-Clear Lake theatre.

It was very informative, because we got to see what the other teams had been working on during the weeks, and we also got to see how all the different teams' work came together to create our final mission.

Sing-a-long

But, it was also a lot of fun, as each team had to perform two songs, one before their presentation, and one after!

My team - the 'working there' team sang: Blue Work Boots, or Blue Suede Shoes - by Elvis and These Boots are Made for Working (Walking!).

It was a lot of fun, and no-one felt nervous or agitated because it was all done in front of friends.

I will have to stop writing now, or I may end up crying over the friends that I'll miss."


"Since I last wrote we've been working very hard on our projects, and have now finished the work and have completed our presentations.

Each of the groups had to put together a 20- minute PowerPoint presentation that showed the work that their team had been doing - and their part of the mission.

Mars rover

We called our team the "Dr Martians", with the slogan "Put on your working boots" - as we are the 'working there' team.

We have designed a number of different things for use on Mars, including a range of different rovers, a Mars suit, a weather station and dust storm sensors.

Fun-filled days

We have been working on this project since Monday morning, and have also been having lectures from various astronauts, scientists and engineers.

Inside Building Nine - used to store Space Station and shuttle replicas
Building Nine stores Space Station and shuttle replicas
Every morning we have been leaving the house at 11.30am, and then arriving home at around 5.30pm - so we've been having long, fun-filled days.

Once we arrive back at our host families, we then have time to change quickly, ready to meet up again in the evenings for social events.

Soaking wet

On Monday evening we all went to put-put golf (crazy golf) and laser tag, it was a lot of fun, even though Houston has been experiencing a heat wave with temperatures of around 43 degrees Celsius.

On Tuesday evening we rode "the beast" at Kemah - the beast is a large speed boat that takes you out onto the lake (it was fantastic, even though we were soaking wet when we returned to shore).

We then went to eat at Joe's crab shack - it was so different to anything I've ever been to before!

Reunion talk

It's really upsetting to think that I will have to say goodbye to all these fantastic people in two days (I think I might cry!), everyone has got along so well.

We have now finished all our projects, and have only to give our final presentations to all the people that we have been working with on Sunday - then we graduate.

But we have already been talking about having a reunion."


"Eight days, and I'm now feeling like an American!

Our first week was spent mainly on visiting important areas, and on having fun and getting to know the other students.

We've been to the University of Houston- Clear Lake, Houston Museum of Natural Science, on a tour of the Nasa Johnson Space Centre (it was amazing!)

African students

We've also had a video conference with the students from the African Space School, in Namibia.

It was amazing to be able to talk with people so far away, interested in the same projects, and it was also interesting to see the ways that they do things differently on their program.

Flight director's chair

Inside Mission Control Center
Inside Mission Control Center
On Thursday, we went to the Nasa Johnson Space Centre, and were lucky enough to see the old mission control.

Rebeka and I sat in the flight director's chair (but we had a bit of a rush to get there!)

We even got to see the people working in the new one, where simulation flights were being done, to help train those in mission control.

Replica parts

We then went to the Sonny Carter neutral buoyancy lab - where the astronauts train underwater.

The pool is 40m deep and has replica parts of the space center and space shuttle in it.

It was also amusing to go where the tourists could not!

While at the Johnson space center we were also able to go to the ASPL (Advanced Space Propulsion laboratory) to see the new rocket technology being developed by them.

Assigned jobs

We have also worked on two challenger missions - these are simulation flights, where we are put into two groups, one group is mission control, the others are astronauts.

We are then split into further groups, and are assigned jobs; eg bio.,geo., communications etc.

We must then work together to get our mission safely to the Moon, or Mars, depending on the challenger mission - and swap jobs on the second section, so that everyone has the opportunity to try both sides.

Mars experiments

They were a lot of fun, as well as being educational and helpful towards our final projects.

Today we started working properly on our projects, I'm on the 'working there team'.

Our job is to design the experiments that will be done on Mars, and also to design the equipment that will be used to do our experiments - blue team."


"Wow, America is amazing!

It was my first flight on Saturday and it was breath-taking - being between the clouds.

I flew from Birmingham to Newark (in New York) and that took seven hours, then we flew from Newark to Houston, that took four hours.

As I walked out of the airport, I was met by the immense heat and humidity of Houston - my glasses actually steamed-up!

Astronaut's family

The next morning I was picked up by Scott Kelly, who I am now staying with (he's an American astronaut), and taken to the home he shares with his family; Leslie, his wife, Samantha (Sammi) his nine-year-old daughter, and Charlotte, his 10-month-old daughter.

I feel so privileged to be able to stay with such a great family.

Everything here is so different, I was surprised to see what appeared to be giant upside-down leeks! It turns out that they actually hold water, and are used to increase the water pressure.

It's also so much flatter here than in Wales - not a hill in sight!

Tigers and giraffes

On the Sunday, Rebeka Venters from Scotland arrived, she is also staying with the Kelly family, she was exhausted.

On Monday we met all the other students - it was fantastic.

Everyone is so different, for example, when I was talking to some of the other students about the wildlife in their areas, I was telling them about foxes and badgers, whereas some people were talking about lions, tigers and giraffes!

Blue team

On Tuesday we had interviews, so that we could be put into groups, white - living on Mars, red - getting to Mars, blue - working on Mars, and yellow - logistics.

The interviews were very casual, and were more about getting to know each other.

I have been chosen to be in the blue team, and have been given t-shirts of that colour in order for us to be able to distinguish between the groups.

Butterfly centre

Today we visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and Butterfly Centre - it was loads of fun, but we had to wait outside of the museum in the sun for around half an hour, not a good thing over here!

This evening we're having a pool party with Sara (from Italy) and Rachael (from Kentucky), who are staying with a family near us.

That's it for now."

More InfoBORDER=0
Sci/TechMissions to Mars explained
Find OutCheck this space guide
QuizMars planet quiz
QuizTry the Beagle 2 quiz
ClubHow to write YOUR report!

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Past StoriesBORDER=0
Spirit rover starts Mars drilling
Nasa stops its missions to Hubble
Skate boy's meteor pic stuns Nasa

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