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UC's Allyson Almeida earned a prestigious award at Space Camp this summer

By Jim Lambert
Allyson Almeida's experience at Space Camp this summer is something she'll never forget
After completing Space Academy last year, Almeida, a rising sophomore at Union Catholic, returned to complete the Advanced Space Academy and Mach III programs this summer in Huntsville, Alabama.

During the graduation ceremony, Almeida received great news when it was announced that she was the recipient of the Advanced Space Academy’s Right Stuff Award for her age group, one of the highest honors at Space Camp.

The Right Stuff Award, named in the spirit of the Tom Wolfe novel of the same name, is given to an outstanding trainee each week in both the Space Camp and Aviation Challenge programs, and is given in honor of the early space explorers and test pilots who were pioneers in the fields of rocketry and jet propulsion.

“That award meant the world to me,’’ said Almeida, who lives in Union. “It’s been over a month and I still haven’t processed that I won that award. The Right Stuff award was such a surreal moment. We were all hoping that someone on our team would win. The moment they called my name my friend Noah turned around and looked at me with his jaw on the floor. My heart honestly stopped for a moment because I was already so emotional from having to leave, so when I was walking off the stage I started bawling my eyes out. I was greeted back with hugs and encouraging words. That award really told me that I could do anything if I put my mind to it, and that is why it means so much to me.’’

Almeida has always been fascinated with space.

“Ever since I was little I was always interested in space so when my mother found out about it (Space Camp), she immediately asked my sister and I. This year, I was officially a high school student, so based on my age I was able to do Advanced Space Academy versus Space Academy. My pilot and I were lucky enough to be chosen and invited to Mach III Elite next year.’’

Almeida said Space Camp is an incredible experience.

“Space Camp is such a surreal experience along with learning so much,’’ said Almeida. “You learn from the people you are with and your crew trainers. They give you log books that contain information you learn about during lectures and rocket building sessions. I learned about so many things from Russian history to all about the Apollo missions. I even got to speak to an astronaut.’’

What was an average day like at Space Camp?

“Every day is different and there is always a schedule,’’ said Almeida. “There was typically a lesson every day and a new activity. One day would be scuba diving, another would be rock wall climbing or pamper pole, and other days would be rocket building and lectures.’’

Almeida said the experience at Space Camp was unforgettable.

“ I would say it was one of the best experiences of my life so far,’ said Almeida. “I honestly enjoyed being around my teammates of course, and all of the special activities like the NBT (Neutral Buoyance Tank), MAT (Multi-Axis Trainer), the rope courses, pamper pole, rock wall climbing, the learning and rocket building sessions. I couldn’t pick a favorite because it was all amazing and I wish it would last longer. What I enjoyed the most would probably be the NBT. It’s a 24 foot tank that you scuba dive in with your team. I was a little scared, but after I got in it felt so natural to me and I now plan to get my scuba certification.’’

Almeida said her experience has changed her outlook for the future.

“I never wanted to be an astronaut until this year’s space camp,’’ said Almeida. “I’ve thought about jobs at NASA in the past like Flight Dynamics Officer or Medic, but after winning that award and completing all of those tough courses, I took a good look at myself and told myself that I could actually do it. My biggest dream is to be the first woman or person on Mars.’’
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