There are some experiences in life that leave a lasting impression and open your mind to a new world of possibilities. When I was a young boy I lived in Prattville, Alabama, and my 5th grade class took a field trip to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center facilities in Huntsville, Alabama. I still remember the wonder of exploring space and the science involved with doing so. The sense of mission and the team exercises brought me closer to my 5th grade friends and taught me the importance of teamwork. Never in my life would I have imagined that my work in the State Department would allow me to see Pakistani and Indian students experiencing the same thing I did as a young boy.
That is exactly what happened in July when the U.S. embassies in Islamabad and New Delhi recently sent 10 students and two teachers to the Advanced Space Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center facilities in Huntsville, Alabama. During the 10-day camp, the students and teachers learned about the mental, emotional, and physical demands astronauts face during their voyages. They also experienced hands-on training, including underwater exercises and centrifuge simulator sessions. The students visited an Apollo 16 capsule and a Saturn V rocket, and even experienced the sensation of weightlessness. Exposure to the inspiring world of space travel promotes a thirst for science and technology among youth. Eventually this can lead to the strengthening and expansion of the education system.