Contact Victor Williamson with your questions about simulator based experiential education programs for your school.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center Reopens for Private Missions.

 The Staff of Today's First Private Missions at the Space Center Since
Closing in August 2012.  Connor, Zac, Megan, Dave, Ben, Jacqueline, Matt,
Rylan, Jackson, Kirk, Marie, Abby, Eric

The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center Reopens for Private Missions

The CMSEC closed the beginning of August for repairs and renovations.  For the first few months we didn't know which programs would be kept and which ones discontinued.  Their return to normalcy started with the return of field trips in February.  Two months later, school district administrators decided to reopen the simulators for private parties and camps.  Today, everyone's hard work was rewarded with the return of the private mission program, the first ones held since July 31st.

I walked into Central School at 11:30 A.M. and saw something I hadn't seen since July 31.  I had to take a picture to show you.

What I saw was something we call "A Private Mission"  in Space Center lingo.  I actually saw a private mission at the Space Center.  We haven't seen one of those since the last day of July.  People were standing around the restrooms and drinking fountain getting ready for their mission.  There was laughter.  Excitement was thick in the air.  I had a hard time telling who was more enthusiastic - the staff and volunteers or the crew.

I found Megan standing near the Briefing Room door.  "Wow, there's people in the school on a Saturday."
"It's weird, isn't it?" Megan responded with a smile.  I could see what the smile was trying to contain,  a hyper explosive mixture of relief and joy.
"It feels normal, doesn't it?" I replied.   I stood there looking at this crew of teens and remembered the good old days, when the halls of the school were a bustle of activity on a private mission Saturday.  It almost seemed like we'd stepped into a time warp and went back to the Space Center's happier days when 600 students a week experienced the magic of wonder and discovery in our classrooms and simulators.

Megan is seen collecting the Federation Credits required to fuel the Starships and
 get them on their way. 

       Dave Daymont, Zac Hirschi, Megan Warner, Jacqueline Wallace, 
Ben Murdock and Connor Larsen. 

I pulled everyone into the Magellan for a quick photo while the crew finished up their bathroom time.
You know its a FANTASTIC day when you get a smile out of Magellan Set Director, Zac Hirschi.

Megan is showing the money collected for the flight to prove that this really was an honest to goodness, paid private mission.  The Space Center was making a slow turn around.  Instead of using its savings, it was now making some of it back. 

Dave, Ben and Zac stood waiting for their crews to finish their bathroom and drink break so they could get down to business and start their missions.

The same scene shot from the front.  Zac looks confident - but deep inside he is worried he may have forgotten every Magellan private mission he knew.  He's looking to see if Ben is showing any signs of panic.

Ben is just happy to be flying the Galileo again.  Does he remember any of the Galileo's missions?  Maybe.  Does it care?  No.  He's like a kid in a candy shop.  He's back in the saddle, flying his favorite ship.  Its Christmas in May for him.

Dave, on the other hand, is feeling like a deer on the first day of hunting season.   He is the hunted, and the crew are the hunters.  Panic has set in.   He is worrying whether or not this crew of high school seniors were going to eat him alive.

"Dave,  get yourself under control and stop wearing your emotions on your sleeve," I counseled him.

"What if I bomb?" He asked as sweat formed on his forehead.

Ben leaned over to help his fellow flight director.  "Dave, just ask yourself this question," Ben whispered in his ear,  "What would Victor Do?"

Megan ran by in a panic, mumbling something about a set of lost keys.  She found them in the Phoenix Control Room.
"Don't let anyone know I lost my set of school keys," she asked.
"Your secret is safe with me," I answered.  


Mission briefings were next on the agenda.  Zac briefed the Magellan crew in the Discovery Room, Ben was in the school's Conference Room and Dave briefed his crew in the Space Center's old office.
Dave is standing right where my office chair used to sit.  My old white board is still there on the wall.  That white board, and a small section of my long desk, are the only things left of the old office in the room.  That white board is older than the Space Center itself.  The Phoenix Room (as it's now called) was Central School's very first computer lab in the mid to late 1980's.  Before that, it used to be part of the school's library.  The white board is about 25 years old and still going strong.  

I walked to the cafeteria to snap a photo of the Galileo.  Megan, Miranda and Matt 
were kind enough to pose for a photo.

Do you see what I mean when I say the staff and volunteers were giddy with excitement at the
reopening of the Center for private missions?  It's written all over their faces.

Connor and Jacqueline are seen waiting for Zac to finish briefing the Magellan crew on their mission.   They had the honor and privilege of being the Magellan's first private mission Supervisors since the Space Center entered its long dark night last August.  

I had some work to do in my trailer, so I disappeared for an hour or so before going back to check on the missions.  

Ben was still smiling.
"How can you run a mission and play serious characters if you're smiling like that?" I asked.  
"Matt helps me," Ben replied.  Matt leaned down toward Ben.  Ben returned to his mission.    

"Your dog just got run over by a car," I heard Matt whisper into Ben's ear.  Ben's smile partially disappeared, just long enough for him to get through a serious part of his mission.  


Things were going well in the Phoenix.  Dave, Eric and Kyle had everything under control.  Dave was in full command of his faculties.  The Phoenix was resurrected.  Her long nine month winter was over.  Spring had arrived.

The Magellan was my last stop before leaving for the day.  Zac reported the mission was going well.

 Our long time volunteers and stall should recognize what is about to happen.

 The Magellan crew is about to do a landing party.  There be disturbances in the Discovery Room there be, and the crew will have to man up and go take a look. 

 Friends, I'm amazed at what we've created at this small Title I school in Pleasant Grove.  We've built a beloved program from the ground up, and made it one of Utah's favorite field trip destinations.  We've changed thousands of lives over the last 23 years.  We've given the Alpine School District something worthy of their pride.  As I prepare to retire, I'm reminded of this over and over again by everyone I meet.

This entire district was my classroom for nearly 3 decades.  My 320,000 students may not remember me, or my staff and volunteers.  We spent most of our time behind the simulator's walls making the magic of the moment. What they will remember is the imagination and wonder we created and how it affected them.

We did it for the kids.   

This summer I'll continue to work with the fine people at the Discovery Space Center in Pleasant Grove.  They are offering an assortment of fantastic space center camps this summer along with a variety of private missions in their four, new starship simulators.  Be sure to check them out at

 I'll also start working on Utah County's Farpoint Station,  the next generation Space Center set to open in the fall of 2014 at Renaissance Academy in Lehi.  Farpoint Station will be built on my 30 years experience teaching, creating and directing the original Space Center.  The pressure is on.  There is so much to do and so little time.

I'm not exaggerating when I say, "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet Folks!"

Now Let's Roll Up our Sleeves and Get to Work,

Mr. Williamson


Anonymous said...

:D :D :D Im so happy!!!

Annika said...

The volunteer that was buried inside of me since the closing read the first section of the post and just laughed with pure joy. I can't describe how happy and excited I am right now. This is something that makes the darkness of the past months a whole lot lighter :D :D :D

Jaleta Clegg said...

I'm proud and honored to be part of this program. It's wonderful that private missions are coming back. I'm still sad that the Odyssey is only a memory.

J H Pettit said...