Imagination is an important part of most summer camps. Kids are asked to “picture” in their minds what it would be like to walk with dinosaurs in prehistoric times or ride a horse through the Wild West.

In a summer that has the nation celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the moon, 12-year-old Genna Patterson replaced “pictures” in her head with space shuttle assignments, some flips through astronaut training and a simulation of a light stroll across the moon’s surface.

Patterson, a rising seventh-grader at Lake Ridge Middle School, kicked off her summer by attending Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. For one week, Patterson was able to experience what it was like to travel into space.

Since 1982, Space Camp has inspired and led young kids from around the country to train and think like an astronaut. Trainees learn about teamwork, leadership and decision-making skills through activities based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 

To get into the competitive camp, Patterson had to send her report card, letters of recommendation and an essay on why she wanted to attend Space Camp. After finding out over winter break that she got in, Patterson raised about $1,000 to cover the costs.

“I sent a video out to family and friends asking for donations and I made and sold baked goods to them,” Patterson said. “I also worked at the Virginia Renaissance Faire selling handmade goods and my paintings.” 

Once at camp, Patterson was excited to meet new friends and train like an astronaut. 

She was able to participate in six mock missions and use jet-pack and moon-walking simulators. She also rode on the one-sixth gravity chair that stimulates the moon’s gravitational pull, and the multi-axis trainer, which simulates the disorientation of when astronauts enter back into Earth’s atmosphere. 

“Spinning around in simulators felt like I was in ‘Space Camp’ the movie, so I thought that was really cool,” said Patterson.

After participating in one of the mock-missions as a commanding mission specialist has inspired her to potentially take on the job for NASA in the future. As a mission specialist, she would be completing experimental activities outside of the spacecraft. 

Patterson hopes to one day go back to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center with her parents, so they could all participate in the Family Space Camp.  

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