• hopkins

    Jason Hopkins

    B.S., Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
    M.S., George Washington University

    In his aerospace career, Jason Hopkins has worked on satellite systems for Lockheed Martin and on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. He has managed the daily operations of the massive Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center and served as a NASA Fellow advising U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate’s Science and Space Subcommittee. Capitol Hill is a long way, however, from the Georgia town where a little boy created an imaginary space ship from his mother’s laundry basket. Two trips to Space Camp in middle school cemented Hopkins’ desire for an aerospace career. He carried his Space Camp log book everywhere with him and would rattle off space shuttle facts to anyone who would listen. Hopkins is now a part of the next generation of space exploration as he helps develop a reusable launch craft for Masten Space Systems. He also hasn’t given up on going into space himself, this time as a NASA astronaut on a real space craft.

  • kaminski

    Dr. Amy Kaminski

    B.A., Cornell University
    M.A., George Washington University
    M.S. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
    Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

    When Dr. Amy Kaminski was 8, her grandfather sat up lawn chairs in the back yard so they could watch the Perseid meteor shower together. That’s when the “space bug” hit her, and she began reading everything she could about astronomy. At 11, she came to Space Camp for the first of four times and returned as a counselor while in college. Like many Space Camp trainees, Kaminski wanted to be an astronaut, but she ultimately realized she was more interested in the “how” and “why” of space exploration. She wanted to understand and contribute to the important choices the country must make in continuing the space program. With degrees in earth and planetary science, public policy and science and technology studies, Kaminski’s career has included developing the science and education budgets for NASA and advising NASA’s chief scientist on space policy matters, including ways to engage the public in NASA’s mission.

  • whitesides

    George Whitesides

    B.A., Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
    M.Phil., Trinity College, University of Cambridge

    Fulbright Scholar to Tunisia

    George Whitesides is a self-avowed space nerd with a love of adventure. As a child, he would look at the sky on clear nights and think “I want to go up there someday.” He pored over astronaut biographies and came to Space Camp at 16, where he received the Right Stuff Award. A young man of many interests, however, he studied government and considered becoming a lawyer, but it was always the thought of space travel that excited him most. He became the Executive Director of the National Space Society before serving as Chief of Staff for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. For his work, Whitesides received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest honor the agency bestows. He is now the CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, working with Sir Richard Branson on the development of commercial spaceflight vehicles. It’s on one of those crafts that Whitesides plans to make his first flight into space soon.

  • Space Camp

    Space Camp

    On June 6, 1986, “Space Camp” opened in theaters, igniting the desire of thousands of children to come to the real Space Camp®. Space Camp was the inspiration for the film in which a group of teens, a 12-year-old Max, a literal-minded robot named Jinx and a NASA-trained astronaut take off on an unexpected journey to space. In honor of the 30th anniversary of its release and the many children who wore out their VHS copies of the movie, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is inducting the film’s all-star cast - Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott, Joaquin Phoenix, who was known as Leaf at the time, Tate Donovan and Tom Skerritt - into the Space Camp Hall of Fame. Harry Winer directed and five-time Academy Award winner John Williams composed the score for the movie, which was filmed in part on the grounds of the Rocket Center.


  • Rubins

    Kate Rubins

    B.S., University of California, San Diego
    Ph.D, Stanford University

    Dr. Kate Rubins became the third Space Camp alumna to fly in space when she launched to the International Space Station in July 2016. Kate dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child and did chores around the house to earn her trip to Space Camp in seventh grade. She left camp knowing she needed to take as many math and science courses as she could, and that focus paved the way to her study of viral diseases and, ultimately, the NASA astronaut corps. Kate received a bachelor's degree in molecular biology and a Ph.D. in cancer biology. Selected by "Popular Science" magazine as one of its "Brilliant 10" in 2009, Kate was a Fellow and Principal Investigator at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before becoming a member of the 20th NASA astronaut class.

  • Biermann

    Elizabeth Keller Bierman

    B.S., Iowa State University
    M.S., Iowa State University
    M.B.A., Bentley University

    When Elizabeth Bierman was in fourth grade, she brought her lunch to school in an astronaut lunchbox, a sign of her passion for space. She was a shy 12-year-old when she came to Space Academy®, and it was here that she met other trainees with the same fascination with space and science as she had. It's also where she first understood that engineers are "problem solvers," she said, and Space Academy launched an interest that led Elizabeth to study aerospace and systems engineering at Iowa State University. A senior project engineer at Honeywell Aerospace in Minneapolis, Elizabeth is also the recent past president of the Society of Women Engineers. When she talks with groups about how she became interested in engineering, "it all goes back to that lunch box and going to Space Camp," Elizabeth said.

  • Phillips

    Susanna Phillips

    B.A, The Julliard School
    M.A., The Julliard School

    A three-time alumna of Space Academy®, Susanna Phillip's reach for the stars takes place on the stage. One of the opera world’s rising sopranos, Susanna has appeared with leading orchestras around the globe and has made numerous appearances with the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Santa Fe Opera, just to name a few. She has won some of the world’s most prestigious vocal competitions and awards, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Beverly Sills Artist Award in 2010. Susanna is also the co-founder of Twickenham Fest, a chamber music festival that brings world-class musicians to her hometown each August.

  • Ferdowsi

    Bobak Ferdowsi

    B.S., University of Washington
    M.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    As a child, Bobak Ferdowsi was fascinated with science fiction and engineering. His favorite toys were LEGOS, and he had notebooks full of his car designs. As he got older, his interests turned to space, and he made a trip to Space Academy® at the age of 14. Two degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering followed, as well as a career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where Bobak was flight director on the Mars Curiosity team. As the world watched the historic landing of the rover on Mars, Bobak stood out as a colorful member of Mission Control. His Mohawk haircuts with stars and lettering cut into the side caught the attention of social media and even President Obama, who dubbed Bobak "Mohawk Guy." Bobak is now helping plan a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s many moons.


  • Kaya

    Kaya Tuncer

    BS in Civil Engineering, University of California at Berkeley
    MBA in International Business, University of Southern California

    Kaya was inspired to build a Space Camp in his native country of Turkey after learning about the opportunity in 1996 at a meeting about technology transfer with Turkish-American NASA engineer Ismail Akbay. At its opening in June 2000, Kaya dedicated Space Camp Turkey as a “Gift to the Youth of the World.” Since then, more than 150,000 youth and adults from 50 countries have attended the camp. Born and raised in Turkey, Kaya came to California at the age of 19 to pursue an education. The pinnacle of his successful career as a businessman and builder was in his home country when he established the Aegean Free Zone in 1990. This 500-acre industrial park in Izmir, Turkey, has attracted foreign investment from top international companies, created more than 20,000 jobs, and is the home of Space Camp Turkey. In 2002, Kaya established the nonprofit Global Friendship Through Space Education foundation, and has provided scholarships to more than 5,300 young people from 27 countries to attend Space Camp Turkey. In recognition of his philanthropic efforts, Kaya was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2004.

  • Cristoforetti

    Samantha Cristoforetti

    MA, Technische Universität, Accademia Aeronautica

    Samantha is a 1995 alumna of Space Camp in Huntsville, Captain in the Italian Air Force and currently an astronaut with the European Space Agency. Samantha graduated from the Italian Air Force Academy in Pozzuoli, Italy in 2005. From 2005 to 2006, she was based at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, USA. After completing the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, she became a fighter pilot and was assigned to the 132nd Squadron, 51st Bomber Wing, based in Istrana, Italy. From 2007 to 2008, she flew the MB-339 and served in the Plan and Operations Section for the 51st Bomber Wing in Istrana, Italy. In 2008, she joined the 101st Squadron, 32nd Bomber Wing, based at Foggia, Italy, where she completed operational conversion training for the AM-X ground attack fighter. Samantha has logged more than 500 hours flying six types of military aircraft: SF-260, T-37, T-38, MB-339A, MB-339CD and AM-X. Samantha was selected as an European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut in May 2009 and completed basic astronaut training in November 2010. In July 2012 she was assigned to an Italian Space Agency ASI mission aboard the International Space Station - Expedition 42/43, to be launched on a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in December 2014. This will be the second long-duration ASI mission and the eighth long-duration mission for an ESA astronaut. Samantha is currently completing her training on International Space Station (ISS) systems, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, robotics and spacewalks. When not in training in the USA, Russia, Canada or Japan, Samantha is based at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.