‘Out of this world’ experience for Lombard boy

By Jane Charmelo

Lombardian-Villa Park Review Staff Reporter

It’s not every day that a 9-year-old gets to go on a “mission” to Mars or be part of a mission to the Moon, but one Lombard boy can make that claim.
Max Ito spent a week this summer attending Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where he got to be a Mars mission commander and work ground control for another mission to the Moon.
Max’s mom, Stephanie Ito, explained that the Hammerschmidt fourth-grader had attended STEM-related camp locally (science, technology, engineering and math), and some friends of hers happened to mention the space camp, and how “they just raved about the camp,” so Stephanie and Mike Ito decided to give it a shot—letting Max go to his first sleep-away camp.
“He’s been sort of interested in space,” Ito related, mentioning that her husband travels on business and arranged to stay nearby while Max was in Huntsville.
“I’d never been away for a week,” said Max proudly, adding that for him it was no problem because “I like meeting new people.”
He said he and a handful of other children shared a room, where he got to meet other kids from as far away as China.
The camp has boasted more than 750,000 graduates since it was “launched” in 1982, and one of its mottos is “education and joy in learning.”
The program offers STEM-based learning involving exploration and discovery through challenging hands-on activities that include missions with an emphasis on teamwork, leadership and problem solving.
Max said he enjoyed the 1/6-gravity chair, the multi-axis trainer (think human-size gyroscope), the artifacts and seeing the Apollo 16 command module at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, along with other museum artifacts. And, he emphasized how he enjoyed the food.
Experiencing the G-force simulator and wearing a space suit were also among the highlights Max recalled, along with being on the ground control crew of a mission to the Moon, where he said he “communicated with the [space] ship.”
But being a commander on a Mars mission really stood out for the 9-year-old, where he said he got to steer, press the lift-off buttons and report back to the ground.
Stephanie said her son thought it was “a really cool experience. He was super excited about it.”
She and Mike viewed it as “a developmental experience for him to be independent of us for a week.”
“We’re so proud of how brave he was,” she commented, mentioning that while they could email him, he could not email back.
Stephanie described with a chuckle how Max, the oldest of three boys, is already saying, “When I go back next year …”
When asked if he wants to be an astronaut, Max replied that he does want to go into outer space—”when they prove the rocket ship can go to Mars.”
To learn more about Space Camp programs, visit www.spacecamp.com or call 800-637-7223.
To learn more about other programs and activities, visit www.rocketcenter.com, facebook.com/rocketcenterusa or twitter.com/RocketCenterUSA.


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