Dear Teachers, Scout Leaders and Even Moms or Dads Planning a Birthday Party,

Today I went to Buehler Challenger and Science Center in Paramus NJ.  It was the best field trip I ever took.  Let me tell you about it.

When you arrive at Buehler, you immediately see two, glass enclosed rooms labeled ‘Mission Control’.  In between is a hatch door labeled ‘Spacecraft’.  The goal of the trip is to learn to work as astronauts and mission control specialists on a mission to track down Halley’s Comet and send a probe into the comet to determine what type of gases it is made of.

We first go into an auditorium where we review the parts of a space shuttle and learn about how to read our space manual.  Then it’s time to head to work.  One half of the group goes into Mission Control while the other half boards a shuttle and blasts off into space. I started in Mission Control, where everyone was assigned a job - there was Navigation (which was my job), Remote, Probe, Communication, Data, Life Support, and Medical – and we have to communicate with our classmates who have the same jobs in the shuttle.  Everyone had a computer, clipboard, a manual, post it notes, headsets and a pen (the best part is wearing the headsets and talking to my friends in the shuttle). The manual gave us precise instructions on what to do – and we had to follow them exactly and write everything down and make sure we gave clear instructions to the astronauts in the shuttle. (At one point Life Support mixed up the right temperature in the Shuttle and alarms went off because there was too much humidity. Everyone scrambled to fix the problem).

Mission Control looks exactly like the real NASA mission control.  The room is pretty loud because everyone is talking but that just makes it even more interesting – and it’s amazing how everyone is working on their own jobs.  Everything has a place but no one is walking around because we are so focused on our mission.

Halfway through the mission, we switched to the spacecraft, (first we had to buckle in to seats and blast off – we got to watch a recorded launch of a shuttle).  Inside the shuttle, we took our seats and continued our mission with the help of our classmates now in Mission Control.  My partner and I were able to locate Comet Halley, and then send a probe to collect a specimen of gas.  With the help of defraction glasses, we determined there was Helium and Oxygen.  The mission was a success.

We learned that the Buehler Challenger and Science Center was created in honor of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger which exploded in 1986.  On board was the first teacher going into space and the center wanted to continue her teaching.  Personally, I think they did an amazing job and you should really take your class or troop to Buehler.  I just learned they also do birthday parties and I want my next one there!  It makes learning about space and astronaut missions exciting and real.


Sophie T.

400 Paramus Road, Paramus, NJ 07652