Earlier this summer, a 13-year-old named Peter Hulburt launched into the great unknown.
Peter spent a week (or about six of our Earth days) at the Space Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., where he learned to moonwalk as the astronauts do.
As you might suspect, the process of going from boy to spaceman is a rigorous one. Peter trained in the cockpit of NASA-inspired simulators, confronted problems steeped in STEM and wound down his days in a bunk that took its design cues from the International Space Station.
So what is the secret origin story of Peter Hulburt, teenage astronaut?
My mom signed me up and told me during my birthday.
“My mom signed me up and told me during my birthday,” Peter said.
Bigger adventures have started with less — besides, Space Academy marked the first time in his life that young Peter had gone away to camp.
In Alabama, what he lacked in immediate family was quickly made up for with a small team of fellow trainees.
Together, they navigated a successful lunar landing — or a very convincing simulation of one on board the deck of a pseudo shuttle.
“Inside it looked really realistic. There were switches everywhere,” Peter said.
He was in charge of regulating the vessel’s oxygen and temperature, one of the many rotating tasks he adopted during a week’s worth of space errands.
“Basically making sure that no one was going to blow up or anything,” Peter said.
That noble goal was undoubtedly given a boast courtesy of the sailing team at Cuba Lake Yacht Club, where the young man occasionally serves as skipper.
I think it’s just the fact that space has so many things that we don’t know about.
He believes that there may be some overlap between cruising the high seas and interstellar commutes — at least as it pertains to teamwork.
“Looking at it now I think, yeah, it would make a difference,” Peter said.
Fooling around in “space” was fun, but he doesn’t see a future for himself there. Right now he’s more focused on sailing in the Junior Olympics later this month or possibly playing football in the fall.
While both are activities that generally benefit from the presence of gravity, life amongst the stars still holds some fascination for the teen.
“I think it’s just the fact that space has so many things that we don’t know about,” Peter said.