NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., hosted some 100 campers and volunteers from the DeafBlind Camp of Maryland on June 12.
The camp, based in West River, Md., was established in 1998 to provide a safe, fun, barrier-free week for people who have significant hearing and vision loss. Camp leaders requested the tour to highlight their theme this year: "Out of this world."
Credit: NASA Goddard
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The event started at Goddard's Visitors Center, where the campers, aged 18 to 80, learned about space and NASA missions. The crowd favorite was touching the rockets in the Goddard Rocket Garden.
"This is a beautiful experience," said 61-year-old camper Betsy Wohl.
Their tour continued with an atrium full of hands-on activities in Goddard's Building 28. Campers could spin a model centrifuge, try on space gear and even operate power tools.
Paige Green was one of the many camp volunteers who helped Goddard scientists and outreach specialists communicate with the campers. "It helps them visualize when they can touch," Green said. Her camper, Martin Greenberg, was excited not only by touching a rocket but also by actually going inside a capsule.
Many of the Goddard employees who are proficient in sign language came to talk with campers. "It is inspirational for them to see workers here who are deaf or blind, especially at NASA," volunteer Tyler Herron said.
Ishon Prescott, an education and public outreach specialist with the Hubble project, said it was amazing to see everyone's faces light up with joy when they were touching and learning about the spacesuit on his table.
Astronauts Scott Altman and Piers Sellers addressed the group and described their experiences so the campers could imagine what it was like to be in space.
DeafBlind Camp of Maryland's director, Brenda Talley, said, "I applaud NASA because everything here is tactile and accessible for the campers."
Camper Andy Stender agreed, saying through an interpreter he really enjoyed touching the uniforms, toys and rockets. He said that someday, "I want to touch the real moon."