Loreto students at Space School in Houston

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21 February 2017

By Emily Liang 

In December 2016, 22 students from Years 9 –12 at Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak hustled around Melbourne Airport oblivious to what was to come in theLoreto students at NASA's engineering lab with Astronaut space suits next two weeks. The terminal was filled with feelings of a mix of excitement, awe and nerves. Though the nerves came mostly from the parents, for some students, this would be their first time away from home.

After almost 24 hours of flying across the world, we touched down in Houston, Texas; the home of History’s greatest space exploration programs. We travelled to HASSE Space School, with two other school groups from Sydney and Canberra, where the staff introduced us to traditions that we never thought would appear in any camp.

Every morning we started with a carefully engineered dance that at first everyone found a chore but soon enough, especially for the 5.00am wake up calls and the late nights, it was the pick-me-up everyone needed. Every morning pushed us further towards our dreams with inspirational themes incorporated and emphasised daily, such as teamwork, challenging ourselves and breaking through our own barriers. Every day was overflowing with activities and sights to see.

In our first week at the HASSE Space School, we attended the Space Centre University at the Johnson Space Centre, where we were separated into teams to compete in designing and constructing rovers, mars habitats, thermo-protection materials and rockets. We also had incredible opportunities to visit exclusive venues on a VIP tour through NASA’s most technical facilities including the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, the Saturn V rocket and ground control; the room where the launch of Apollo 11 was monitored.

Throughout the two weeks, HASSE appointed us group assignments including dance competitions, photo competitions, presentations, and the most prestigious competition, the HASSE X-Prize. Every spare moment we had was used in creating the most spectacular projects and presentations, including late nights filled with hard work and laughter. Our friendships were strengthen through working together, creative conversations, problem solving and our shared experiences of such a privileged opportunity.

Throughout these two weeks, having the possibility to attend HASSE’s Space Program with Loreto Toorak encouraged in me the skills and inspiration to truly solidify my decision for my future as an Engineer.