Space Camp Hall Of Fame 2019
On July 13, 2019, four Space Camp Alumni were inducted into the 2019 Space Camp Hall of Fame at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Sponsored by Northrop Grumman, hundreds attended the gala to honor the new inductees in preparation of the Apollo 11 Commemoration. This year’s inductees were: Wally Funk, Casey Harris, US Astronaut Christina Koch, and Beth Moses. Shortly after the silent auction, guests were treated to a grand buffet featuring choice cuisine prepared by chefs Jason Williams and Allen Noble as well as local wines.
Chris Maynard, who is the manager of retail sales gave a stirring rendition of the National Anthem followed by opening remarks by Dr. Deborah Barnhart, current CEO of the Space and Rocket Center. The Master of ceremonies was Marshall Flight Center’s very own, David Hitt. This year’s Hall Of Fame ceremony was even more exciting as it took place in the shadow of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Landing. Dr. Barnhart informed the audience that by the end of this year, Space Camp will have graduated one million participants since Space Camp was created.
Beth Moses of Northbrook, Illinois came to Space camp in 1989. Since that time, she went on to obtain a B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University.
While onboard Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two Unity this past February, she became the first woman to reach space aboard a commercially launched space vehicle and is the first woman to receive the Federal Aviation Association’s commercial astronaut wings. Before becoming a part of the Virgin Galactic family, she was a senior engineer at NASA Johnson Space Center’s EVA Project Office. Receiving her award, she spoke briefly about the several projects that Virgin Galactic has in place as well recent technological accomplishments. “We are opening space to
change the world for good. I think that it is fundamental that space connects everyone. I think that we are on the dawn of a space age that connects the planet. Going to space shouldn’t be special. We shouldn’t have a million space camp kids, we should have many many millions of space camp kids who turn into millions of astronauts because we will appreciate our earth that much better.” she said. After donning her Hall Of Fame jacket, Beth Moses then pinned her astronaut wings on her jacket.
If you’ve heard the signature hit, “Renegades” by the X Ambassadors as well as a string of their other chart toppers, you’re familiar with keyboardist Casey Harris. Mr. Harris is the first Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCVIS) to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame. “Music is my career but space is what I do when I’m not onstage.” His thirst for flight stems from when as a pre-teen, his uncle took him up in a WWII era aircraft. Forward to 2000 and 2001 and he attends Aviation Challenge twice and received the coveted Top Gun Award. “It was one the mot formative inspiring moments of my life”, he said upon receiving his jacket. He had already expressed a deep interest in aviation and aerospace. However, it was attending Aviation Challenge that propelled him deeper into the science of flight. So excited about space he is, Casey Harris gave his son the middle name “Orion”. Orion is also the name of his second album. “My son’s middle name shares that of the capsule that will take us back to the moon and maybe even on to Mars. Space is back. Space is cool, it’s amazing.”
At the age of four in Taos, New Mexico, Wally Funk knew that she wanted to fly. Wearing a superman cape, she jumped from her father’s barn. As easy as it is to write it
off as a childish folly, all great feats begin somewhere. “One thing I want you to know about me is that I go higher, further, and longer”, she said upon receiving her award. Her creed impressively speaks for itself. By the time she was nine, she had her first flight lesson. Growing up on the southwestern frontier, she was tough and had to be. When she was 14, she won the National Rifle Association’s Distinguished Rifleman’s Award. This feat prompted officials at the NRA to send her target scores to then President Dwight Eisenhower, who in turn sent her a personal letter of congratulations. She would go on to attend Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri where she graduated in 1958 at the top of her class of 24 while flying as a member of the “Flying Susies”. She then went on to attend Oklahoma State University and obtain a B.S. in Secondary Education and also flew with the “Flying Aggies”. While at OSU she received a host of aviation instrument ratings and awards such as the Outstanding Female Pilot and Aggie Top Pilot.
With an impressive resume of aviation and aeronautics, she became a professional aviator and civilian flight instructor at Ft. Sill Oklahoma Army Base at the age of 20, thus the first female flight instructor for the US Armed Forces. Along the way, she managed to distinguish herself working for the National Transportation Safety Board as its first female Air Safety Investigator, having investigated 450 accidents. Furthermore, she claimed numerous victories in a host of air races including the Pacific Air Race from San Diego, California to Santa Rosa, California in which she beat out 80 other competitors.
“My grandparents were very instrumental at having me do everything very very correct. When I wanted to get my engineering degree so I could be with NASA, I went to one of the colleges back east. I was slapped on the shoulder and told you’re a girl so go to home economics”. Although such views
regarding women during the time period in question were common, she did not allow them to define her. It was the encouragement of her family that instilled in her a sense of accomplishment and attention to the most minute of details which bred a commitment to excellence. That commitment to excellence enabled her to be eligible to participate in the “Women In Space” Program. Twenty-five women were selected to participate. Only 13 ultimately graduated the program, including Funk. They were nicknamed the “Mercury 13”. Although she passed many of the very rigorous tests, even scoring higher than John Glenn. Despite her numerous accomplishments, and having applied three times to the astronaut program, she was denied on the grounds of not having an engineering degree nor test pilot experience, qualifications extremely rare for a woman during this period. By the time women began to break barriers into the space program with Eileen Collins in 1995, Funk was deemed too old to be a shuttle pilot. Just as Funk never took no for an answer, she would have the last say.
In 2012, Funk paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to be one of the first people to fly into space onboard Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft. More of her exploits and accomplishments can be read her book, “Wally Funk’s Race For Space: The Extraordinary Story Of An Aviation Pioneer”, available at Amazon. Currently, at 80 years old, she has logged well over 19,000 flight hours and flies every Saturday. Despite being a young woman in 1950’s America where there were strict gender roles and norms regarding male dominated fields such as aviation, Ms. Funk attributed a lot of her success from her parents. “I have to thank my parents for such a free and fantastic upbringing in a very proper way. They encouraged me to do anything and everything that I wanted to do. They never held me back”, she reminisces about her formative years of growth and development.
Lastly, 2019 Inductee Christina Koch was unable to physically attend because she is currently on the International Space Station. Launched this past March as a member of Expedition 59 and 60. However, she did provide a live feed to the ceremony. “Space camp was a place where I found out that I wasn’t the only person dreaming about being a part space program. My horizons were
widened and I had a new perspective from which to measure my success”, explains Astronaut Koch of overall five time space camp visits. For her, explains Koch, “Space Camp was the reward for keeping my grades up”. Those grades were later parlayed into obtaining a B.S. and M.S. in Physics and Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University. Before being selected as an astronaut for the 21st NASA Astronaut Class, she served as an electrical engineer at the Goddard Space Flight Center Laboratory for High Energy Physics. She also was a research associate with the United States Antarctic Program. In 2012, Astronaut Koch worked at a host of remote scientific bases, now with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She also served as a Field Engineer at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division Baseline Observatory in Barrow, Alaska, and later as Station Chief of the American Samoa Observatory.
The Keynote address was given by Jody Singer, who is currently the Director for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Singer, an alumnus of the University of Alabama, holding a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in 1983, was named the 15th director in September of 2018. She was deputy director of the Marshall Space Flight Center prior to her new appointment. As director, she now leads almost 6,000 civil service and contractor employees and an annual budget of approximately $2.8 billion. The event closed out with scholarship information by Drs Andrea Hanson and Ben Chandler.