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To Infinity and Beyond

Image: The mission control center crew receives a basic overview of the simulation and hints on reading mission reference materials. The deaf crews are able to communicate with the commander, pilot, mission specialist, and flight engineer through the TV screens.

The mission control center crew receives a basic overview of the simulation and hints on reading mission reference materials. The deaf crews are able to communicate with the commander, pilot, mission specialist, and flight engineer through the TV screens.

Image: Astronaut Sierra Saylor attempts to repair a satellite by communication with space shuttle mission specialist Deanna Phillips (on TV screen).

Astronaut Sierra Saylor attempts to repair a satellite by communication with space shuttle mission specialist Deanna Phillips (on TV screen).

Image: Astronaut Dalton Arnes (right) stands on a mechanical arm while astronaut Deanna Phillips (middle) sees through interpreter and flight engineer Sierra Saylor (on TV screen) to get instructions on where to repair the satellite at the space shuttle cargo bay.

Astronaut Dalton Arnes (right) stands on a mechanical arm while astronaut Deanna Phillips (middle) sees through interpreter and flight engineer Sierra Saylor (on TV screen) to get instructions on where to repair the satellite at the space shuttle cargo bay.

Image: Sierra Saylor moves a 100-lb iron ball as she experiences underwater astronaut training. “Due to the neutral buoyancy in water, it does not feel that heavy,” she said.

Sierra Saylor moves a 100-lb iron ball as she experiences underwater astronaut training. “Due to the neutral buoyancy in water, it does not feel that heavy,” she said.

Image: The team attempts to complete a challenge at area 51 by using ropes to move a bucket with green balls to another bucket without touching the bucket. The success of the activity depends on teamwork, trust, communication, decision making, self-confidence, cooperation, and leadership skills.

The team attempts to complete a challenge at area 51 by using ropes to move a bucket with green balls to another bucket without touching the bucket. The success of the activity depends on teamwork, trust, communication, decision making, self-confidence, cooperation, and leadership skills.

Image: Deanna Phillips completes her challenge by climbing a 32-foot pole, standing on the top, and ultimately leaping off the edge to reach a suspended rope. She gives the experience a thumbs-up!

Deanna Phillips completes her challenge by climbing a 32-foot pole, standing on the top, and ultimately leaping off the edge to reach a suspended rope. She gives the experience a thumbs-up!

Image: The crew onboard a G-force accelerator prepares to experience three times the force of push against centripetal force. Right to left: Claudia Giordano, Emily Schreiner, Kyle Lauderbaugh, and Dalton Arnes.

The crew onboard a G-force accelerator prepares to experience three times the force of push against centripetal force. Right to left: Claudia Giordano, Emily Schreiner, Kyle Lauderbaugh, and Dalton Arnes.

Each year students from all over the world head to Huntsville, Alabama, for a week-long, hands-on learning experience in math, science, and technology at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. This year six students from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD)-Dalton Arnes, Claudia Giordano, Kyle Lauderbaugh, Deanna Phillips, Sierra Saylor, and Nino Taylor-won scholarships to attend the camp accompanied by MSSD science teachers Mark Tao and Emily Schreiner.

At Space Camp, MSSD students teamed up with three students from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf as the Von Lions mission specialist group. Their program was called "Advanced Space Academy" for students ages 15-18 years old. It is the only Space Camp program that includes underwater astronaut training using scuba equipment.

"Our science teacher, Mark Tao, really helped to orient us before Space Camp by showing us pictures from last year's camp and describing the activities," said Saylor. "It's important to have good science and math skills for Space Camp. If you love science, Space Camp is a great experience."

The MSSD students also met other space enthusiasts from around the country, including students from schools for the deaf in Utah, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Iowa.

Over the course of the week, students engaged in simulated shuttle missions, simulated flight control scenarios of flying and landing aircraft, scuba training, survival techniques for land operations, ropes courses, model rocket building and launching, introduction to orbiter systems, simulated repairs in space, IMAX movies on such topics as space junk and the Hubble Space Telescope, and team building exercises at the Area 51 Leadership Reaction Course.

"One of the things that surprised me was when the multi-axis trainer spins you around. You get dizzy because you don't spin twice in the same direction, but you don't get sick because your stomach remains at the center of gravity," said Phillips. "I also liked learning how to do flight control in space; it's not easy to abort a mission or stop crashes!"

The Von Lions team trained and successfully completed two simulated shuttle missions. On graduation day, Arnes was given the "King of the Hill" award for his team for earning the highest score in the flight pilot competition for which he received a NASA mission patch.

"I enjoyed seeing our MSSD Space Camp scholarship recipients go through the program and learn through a first-hand space science explorer experience-a real-life experience with specialized trainers and equipment that could not be simulated in our school classrooms," said Tao.

Since the founding of Space Camp for deaf and hard of hearing students in 1987, over 2,000 students and staff from the United States and other countries have attended. Each student who participates in Space Camp receives one college credit from the University of Alabama-Huntsville. MSSD students participated in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013.

Read more information about Space Camp for deaf and hard of hearing students.