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Education / Idea becomes reality as Unst plays host to ‘astronaut training camp’ for children

WHAT is being dubbed the first astronaut training camp for children will be hosted from Unst this summer.

The virtual ‘summer camp’, generally for people aged 10 to 12, will include guest contributions from two astronauts.

Sessions will be held online between 28 June and 23 July, meaning people from around the world can take part.

But the brains behind the idea – US-based ‘astronaut teacher’ Mike Mongo – will travel to Britain’s most northerly island Unst, home of the proposed Shetland Space Centre, to host the camp.

Mongo said the project – named Astronaut Job Camp – is for “students who want to grow up to live, work, and play in space”. Registration details can be found online.

It comes after he told Shetland News earlier this year that Unst would be a prime site for the world’s first space training centre for children.

Since then the idea has seemingly launched into a reality with the support of Shetland Space Centre.

Shetland Space Centre hopes to launch satellites from Lamba Ness in Unst next year, although the planning permission process is still ongoing.

Mongo said he felt the isolated nature of Unst would be a perfect fit for a training centre to get young people ready for working in the space industry.

He has secured the support of SpaceX Inspiration4 astronaut Dr Sian Proctor and NASA space shuttle astronaut Nicole Stott for the camp.

US based space teacher Mike Mongo believes “kid astronauts” could be a thing of the future – and Unst could be a perfect location for a training centre for youngsters. Photo: Rich Johnson

Astronaut trainee Alyssa Carson will also contribute.

“Learn with top astronaut instructors what it takes to pursue non-traditional and careers in space – including space artists, space athletes, space gamers, and space YouTubers,” the camp’s website said.

“Camp attendees will participate in their very own analogue astronaut space mission, while building valuable relationships with space STEAM-directed [science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics] peers.”

There will be two simultaneous summer camps – one for the local time zone, and another for US and Americas. There will be 120 slots, 60 from each one time zone.

Mongo, who will quarantine upon arrival, said he was excited to host the virtual camp from Unst.

“I’m a 10 year old in the grown up body of a 56 year old person, and the 10 year old is doing somersaults and cartwheels all day long just thinking about it,” he said.

“We get to inspire students all over the world from Unst to Scotland and outwards about space. That’s the most exciting thing in the world for me.”

It will cost $100 to participate – around £70 – but scholarships will be available to ensure price is not a barrier to all.

Mongo added that he hopes to be able to travel around Shetland’s schools, either virtually or in person.

Head of Shetland operation for Shetland Space Centre Yvette Hopkins said the team is “delighted” about the prospect of the summer camp.

“We are absolutely committed to creating opportunities for young people to learn about and work in the space industry as it expands and develops in the UK,” she said.

“The camp is about giving younger students in particular the permission to live, work and play in the space sector, and we urge them to sign up and take the opportunity to create their very own space missions.”