Man working to become astronaut says Space Camp changed his life

Man working to become astronaut says Space Camp changed his life

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A place capturing dreams of soaring high is soaring low...financially.

A college student donated $100 to the Save Space Camp campaign. He says he would not be where he is today without what he learned there.
A college student donated $100 to the Save Space Camp campaign. He says he would not be where he is today without what he learned there. (Source: WAFF)

That would also mean no more Space Camp. That’s if they can’t raise at least $1.5 million by October.

We talked with the president and CEO of the Huntsville Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Judy Ryals says they were given a heads up about the news earlier and are already busy making phone calls.

She tells us they are contacting legislative leaders for help and asking for donations. Ryals says there’s no doubt that this is the most popular attraction in Alabama.

“This is my space shrine I guess you could say. I have my space Lego collection, the Saturn V, the International Space Station right here,” Niko Blanks, who lives in Chattanooga, said.

Blanks says Space Camp changed his life.

“Getting to do experiments and build rockets and do mission simulations definitely grew my love for it and if I had never gone, I would not be in the place that I am today,” Blanks said.

So where he is now? Niko is a 21-year-old college student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, studying space flight operations. His ultimate goal: becoming an astronaut.

“Going there motivated me to be the best person that I could be and use my passion for space in the best way that I could. And I think for a lot of people it has had the same effect on them. Whether they end up going into the space industry or not, or become astronauts, people that attend space camp are changed forever,” Blanks explained.

There’s no doubt, the emotional impact space camp has had an impact on millions. But it has also had a tremendous impact on Huntsville’s economy.

In 2019, the Space and Rocket Center brought in more than $40 million. And more than one million visitors. Think about just how many hotel rooms and restaurant bills that would translate to.

Lee Sentell, the director of the Alabama Tourism Department, says he’s confident the community can pull together the money.

“Yes, it does need a million and a half dollars, but there are billions in Huntsville and I think the right management team can put Humpty-Dumpty back together again,” Sentell said.

Niko’s already put in his donation.

“They gave me so much more than I could ever repay them. So $100, I feel like is not enough. I wish I could do more than that. I want these kids that are future explores and going to be the leaders of our country and our world in the future to have that opportunity,” Blanks said.

At last check the GoFundMe has raised more than $200,000 of the $1.5 million goal. Great traction for the first day, but a representative from the Space and Rocket Center tells us she hopes the progress doesn’t slow down.

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