14:02 PM

Va. Cadets Enjoy Advanced Space Academy Despite Pandemic

2nd Lt. Brigette A. Moritz
Assistant Public Affairs Officer
Prince William Composite Squadron
Virginia Wing

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down just about every summertime activity for the young across the U.S., but a pair of Virginia Wing cadets were still able to advance their aerospace knowledge at the Advanced Space Academy.

Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Chloe Gross and Cadet Staff Sgt. Shannon Moritz, both members of the Prince William Composite Squadron, were among the select group able to participate in the activity, one of the camps run by Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Advanced Space Academy is designed for high school-aged youth. The two cadets enjoyed a variety of astronaut training exercises, engineering challenges and team-building activities, culminating in an extended simulated space mission.

They also learned about neutral buoyance while scuba diving in the Underwater Astronaut Trainer.

“It’s a full week of straight space education,” Moritz said.

A six-time Space Camp alumnus, she was devastated when her original camp was cancelled earlier in the summer. Luckily, a space opened for her toward the end of the season.

“As an alumna, it was important to show my support, as Space Camp is kind of struggling through this pandemic,” Moritz said. “I was excited to experience something new and different.”

Gross, in contrast, attended Space Camp for the first time this year after being awarded a scholarship. Even with the challenges the pandemic posed, she glad that she was able to go.

“I am a senior this year, so this summer was one of my last chances to visit Space Camp,” she said. “I had a blast learning about the history of the space program, seeing the rockets they have on site, scuba diving, flying simulators and acting out space shuttle missions with my team.

“Ever since I was a kid, I've loved everything about outer space, rockets and aviation,” Gross said.

Advanced Space Academy explores college and career preparation through an immersive experience in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM). Both cadets are eligible to earn one credit hour of freshman-level general science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville through the college-accredited program.

Space Camp has provided valuable learning experiences to thousands of young people over the years – including the Virginia Wing’s Group 3 deputy commander, Capt. Scott Kaplan.“I loved Space Camp and Aviation Challenge,” Kaplan said. “With an interest in aviation and space from the time I was a very young child, the ability to attend the camps allowed me to get deeply involved in better understanding those environments.

"I still continue to remember the experiences of getting to fly the space shuttle and F-14 simulators, taking part in survival training and science experiments," he said. “I feel the program is a great introduction to the STEM fields in space and aviation, a natural match with CAP based on our focus on aerospace education.”

Moritz wants to be an aerospace engineer. “I need to know about past spacecraft and aircraft as well as the future of the industry. Space Camp gives me that opportunity in a fun and productive way,” she said.

Gross would like to continue pursuing her aerospace dreams and become a pilot in the Air Force.