Over the past few days word has slowing started to spread about the crisis level discussions that have been taking place at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Many people have had strong opinions about the situation at hand in these unprecedented times. I’ve kept my thoughts mostly to myself because they conflicted with the rocket center’s mindset of trying to reopen as quickly as possible. In case you can’t tell, I thought that was the wrong decision. However, I can’t fault the rocket center because 90% of their revenue comes from their camp programs, and the center needed to ensure that they could outlast COVID-19 intact. Hard decisions were made and the I applaud the center staff that stuck to their guns and insisted on tough measures to ensure the safety and health of staff, guests and trainees. However, operating at reduced capacity at this stage of the game isn’t going to keep the center operating as-is for very long.
Today, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, through an effort being primarily directed by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Educational Foundation have kicked off a urgent plea for assistance with the “Save Space Camp” campaign. Over the coming days you will see the center and Space Camp/Aviation Challenge alumni groups mobilize to raise $1.5 million to sustain the center through the late fall/winter period of operations. Traditionally this slow period of the year requires the center to reach into the money they have saved up through the spring and summer to keep the lights on and the doors open. However, thanks to COVID-19 and lack of attendance at camps this summer those savings didn’t materialize. The center has worked hard to secure additional credit but the amount given will not fully support the minimum operations required through the winter period in order to resume normal operations next spring. This is where the “Save Space Camp” effort comes into play.
Is Space Camp really at risk?
The short answer is YES. The long answer is it isn’t just camp programs that are at risk. The museum programs, outreach efforts and community impact that the center makes are also at risk. However, all of those things can’t happen without Space Camp being able to restart in May.
With that in mind I fully support the “Save Space Camp” effort and will continue to make my monthly donations (and employer match) count towards this effort. I highly encourage all of my readers to do the same and trust me when I say ANY amount helps support the organization at this point.
I’ll close this with something that I don’t think I share enough. If you have been fortunate enough to go through the Space Camp program, you know what an amazing impact it has on the long term success of a trainee. While they more than likely won’t become an astronaut, trainees learn the critical thinking skills that enable them to be the best of the best. In my case, I was someone who was afraid to speak in front of others, I felt isolated by my love of geeky space things and often felt left out in school. My week at Space Camp literally changed my life and ignited a spirit and passion to stand up for what I believe in, defend what I think is important become to person I am today. While not everyone has the same experience I had, there are countless others who leave Space Camp graduation ceremonies with a newfound understanding of who they are and what they plan to do with their life. Something that changes lives, is worth protecting.
Over the next few days and weeks, Sprocketeers will be highlighting a few other Space Camp alumni who have had similar experiences. I hope you will take a moment to read their stories and also take a moment to contribute to the Save Space Camp effort. I will also be posting additional material to explain why the center can’t just turn to government funding to solve their problems. As you can expect it is a pretty complicated set of issues and I’m happy to help set the record straight.
How you can help
Here are a few ways in how you can help support the Save Space Camp effort:
Wes is a two time Space Camp graduate and space enthusiast with a love of North Alabama. When he isn't busy being a dad he enjoys travel, volunteering and working his life away. All comments are my own.