About the Author: Joshua N. Baker serves as Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.
In cooperation with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science (OES) and the National Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, recently sent twenty-four students and two Libyan teachers to attend a space camp at the Advanced Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama. A professional Libyan film crew accompanied the students and teachers to capture the ten-day event.
At the Academy, the students and teachers learned about the mental, emotional, and physical demands astronauts face. During the ten-day camp, which took place from August 1 to 10, the participants visited an Apollo 16 capsule and a Saturn V rocket, and even experienced the sensation of weightlessness. All twenty-six students and teachers completed this unprecedented journey from Tripoli to Huntsville, Alabama, and returned to Libya with an unforgettable out-of-this-world experience! Space camp was clearly a great place for the kids to be this summer given celebrations for the 40th anniversar of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon.
Prior to takeoff, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz congratulated the young astronauts on their selection for the first ever U.S.- Libya Space Camp Exchange Program. Ambassador Cretz emphasized that the young astronauts-in-training represented the future leaders of Libya, and that the United States government was proud to be sending them on the inaugural program. In recognition of the students’ achievements, Libyan Ambassador to the U.S. Ali Aujali, U.S. State Department Science and Technology Cooperation Director Bruce Howard, and Alabama state officials attended the graduation ceremony at the end of the program.
The Libyan students and teachers represent the first group from North Africa to attend U.S. Space Camp, and only the second group from the Arab world since 1982. Bringing young Libyan students to the United States for a special science education program is just a small part of a larger U.S. effort to re-establish its commitment to offering educational opportunities to Libyan students. Space camp was founded in 1982 to promote the study of math, science, and technology and encompasses educational classroom instruction and hands-on activities that teach teamwork, decision-making, and leadership. At the Advanced Space Camp Academy, students from around the world interact around math, science, and technology in a hands-on environment within an astronaut setting.
A film recording the students’ experience at camp will be produced by a Libyan film crew. The film will be shown on Libyan television and in Libyan classrooms and in other countries around the region to spark an interest in science and discovery, demonstrate U.S. goodwill, and inspire future attendance of many more foreign students at space camp. The program is being carried out under the U.S.-Libya Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement, signed in Washington, DC in January 2008.