About the Author: Joshua Baker serves as a Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.
There was certain buzz in the air. Everyone in Tripoli and beyond knew that something big was going to happen. In fact it was something bigger than big, it was the World Premiere of the Libyan Space Camp Documentary, “One Small Step, One Giant Leap.”
In August 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli sent twenty-four Libyan high school students to attend the NASA Space Camp at the Advanced Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama. The students represent the first group from North Africa to attend U.S. Space Camp and only the second group from the Arab world since 1982. A professional Libyan film crew captured the ten-day adventure.
The production of the film was intense, bringing together some of the best voice actors in the business both Libyan and American. The end product was fantastic. Libyan-American Director Tarek Baghdadi created a timeless piece of digital video masterpiece that demonstrated what great things Americans and Libyans can do when they work together.
The venue for the World Premiere was the residence of Ambassador Gene A. Cretz, the first U.S. Ambassador to Libya in 36 years. The house was transformed into a lunar surface cinema, replete with Astronaut Ice Cream, Popcorn, Moon Rocks, and Meteorites.
The crowd consisted of parents, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors of your Libyan Astronaut Heroes as well as prominent businessmen and Libyan media reps. For 23 minutes and 13 seconds the crowd remained spell-bound by the amazing experience of Space Camp. From ropes courses, to inter-galactic orbiters, to underwater weightlessness training, it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The film highlighted the important role that this science education initiative played in developing the people-to-people diplomacy and youth outreach in Muslim majority countries that President Obama called for in his Cairo Speech. Sending Libyan students to the United States on this special science education program is just a small part of a larger U.S. effort to bolster our commitment to offering educational opportunities to Libyan students and professionals.
The World Premiere blast off was a major success and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the accomplishment of the first Libyans who dared to boldly go where no Libyan had gone before!
The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli is planning to make Space Camp an annual event by sending at least 10 Libyan students aged 14 to 18 each summer.