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Space academy: Pair of Hurlburt youths have the Right Stuff

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Stuart Camp
  • 16 SOW Public Affairs
Dreams of flying high got a space shuttle sized boost for two Hurlburt Field youths.

Ben Chastain, 14-year-old son of Tech. Sgt. Mike and Laura Chastain, and Regan Roshetko, 12-year-old son of Lt. Col. Chet and Carla Roshetko, were selected to attend a week-long Space Academy course at Huntsville, Ala., on full scholarships through the Air Force Services program.

The pair of neighborhood friends spent July 30 - Aug. 4 learning about space and the monstrous effort it takes for each space shot to be successful.
Chastain attended the Advanced Space Academy, and Roshetko attended the Space Academy. They were there alongside other AF children selected to attend. Their scholarships covered the nearly $1,000 tuition and program costs for each child.

Both boys are home-schooled. Chastain is a high school sophomore who runs cross country at Fort Walton Beach High School, and Roshetko is in seventh grade. Both plan to attend the Air Force Academy - classes of 2013 for Ben and 2016 for Regan.

"I've always had a fascination with space," Regan said after his Huntsville experience.

More definitively, the young man wants to fly a little closer to terra firma.
"I want to be a fighter pilot," Regan said.

This was the first of two Services' camps Ben wishes to attend.

"I wanted to go so I could get in the teen aviation camp," Ben said.

The teen aviation program is held annually at the Air Force Academy to give campers insight into what life at the school is like.

"I want to become a pilot, navigator or meteorologist," he said.

Their long voyage to the future began with a six-hour bus ride from here to Huntsville, also known as Rocket City.

After settling into their berths and meeting their teammates, the schedule ignited.

"We were totally active the whole time," Ben said. He explained that crew days lasted from 7:30 a.m. -10:30 p.m. daily.

Clad in jumpsuits to color code the separate camps - a blue jumpsuit for Chastain and his advanced camp colleagues; and an orange jumpsuit for Roshetko - the trainees got hands-on training, as well as learned about the mental, emotional and physical demands astronauts must face. They studied engineering, space technology and aerospace science.

Mirroring the repetitive training real astronauts undergo, Hurlburt's two adventurers and their respective teams rehearsed their planned "graduation" mission.

"We had four one-hour missions to train for the six-hour (final) mission," said Ben. "I remember the missions we had to do - mostly everyone died on them. I liked mission control the best."

Ben sat in the flight commander seat on one of their one-hour missions.

"I got to take off and land the shuttle," he said. "In the orbiter there were a lot of buttons. It was confusing."

The training was designed to have campers run the checklist procedures of a mission and be required to make emergency decisions while monitoring and commanding the crew.

To explain how his six-hour mission went, Ben simply said, "It was crazy."
Not to be outdone, the younger campers had missions to perform, too.

"We had two two-hour missions as well as two training missions," Regan said. "I got to hit a lot of buttons, and I reported a lot to the mission control."

Meshed into the schedule with the mission prep, campers endured other stomach-turning activities.

One of which was what the boys described as "space shot." It's a simulator that replicated pull of gravity - four times the pull of gravity, or "Gs" - during takeoff and weightlessness. Each "ride" included several liftoffs and descents.

When asked how many times the ride launched him, Regan said, "I lost count."
Then there was the centrifuge.

"Our faces were all pressed back," Ben explained while pulling his cheeks toward his ears for the full visual effect. "It felt like having a leaf blower blowing in my face, only without the wind."

Roshetko also felt the relative weightlessness astronauts feel on the moon when he sat in the "one-sixth" chair.

"It was really fun - there was a lot of laughing," Regan said.

Each tried spacing food - peaches and Neapolitan ice cream for Regan and mint chocolate chip ice cream for Ben.

At the graduation ceremony - Regan's team received "best mission" award for their professionalism and ability to fix problems the fastest.

In the end, both boys realized they had the right stuff to pursue the outer limits of space, and the space academy adventure was their launching pad.

"I think I want to be an astronaut," Regan said. "It's hard to compare it with anything I've ever done before."