One’s destination is not always a place but a new way of seeing new things. On 23rd May 2014, 26 students along with the principal and two teachers, assembled at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International airport, Kolkata at 11:30 p.m. All were thrilled and prepared to set off ontheir journey to the United States of America. It was an educational trip to NASA. Our hearts were flooded with passion as our flight took off from the airport at 3:40 am. It was only after 21 hours that we reached New York. The unknown and untreaded (by us) land of America seemed so inviting. By the next day’s flightwe reached our first destination, the theme park capital of the world, Orlando in Florida. It was the 25thof May.
As per schedule we proceeded to the Disney World from our hotel. In the company of Mickey Mouse at the theatre, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It was great fun to see the parade outside and even dance with some of the characters of the cartoon world. After spending about 6 hours there, we returned to our hotel at 10 pm. All were waiting with bated breaths for the next day since we were going to visit NASA. Hardly had anyone slept.
The next day we got up and after having refreshed ourselves we boarded the bus and proceeded towards the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Upon arrival at the KSC, we were handed our tickets and we proceeded through the fascinating Rocket Garden. Scarcely does one get a chance to visit NASA in one’s lifetime; we considered ourselves lucky. The Rocket Garden was a place where the replicas of some of the famous rockets were kept in miniature form. There was a KSC bus tour by which we were taken to the various parts of the NASA complex. Firstly we were taken to that unique view-point from where the spectators can gaze at a rocket taking off. Next we moved on towards launchpad 39A and 39B.On our way we were shown an amazing structure known as ‘Crawlers Transporter’.It is a vehicle which is used to carry rockets or space shuttles from the VAB(vehicle assembling building) to the launch pad. It weighs 2,721,000 kilograms. We were left speechless when we came to know that it took 4-5 hours for a space shuttle to cover a distance of just 3 miles.We were shown the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a building where the rockets are assembled after that. VAB is the world’s largest single storied building. We were also shown the runway and our final stop was at Saturn 5-Apollo center. The building housed the Saturn 5 rocket,which was for the common person’s viewing,divided into five different stages. It was unbelievable when we realized that we were gazing at a real rocket. Next we were shown a series of small video clips which briefed aboutthe history of Space shuttles and the takeoff of the first Atlantis Space shuttle. However, the best part of the tour was when we found ourselves in front of the Atlantis space shuttle. An indescribable pleasure and awe filled us as we gazed at the shuttle. Following this we also enjoyed a space shuttle’s take-off experience. Finally at the end of the day, we proceeded to the hotel.
The next day we paid a visit to the ATX, the Astronaut Training Experience in the Kennedy Space Center. During thecourse of the day, we interacted with astronaut Samuel T. Durrance, who explained to us about life in space. All of us took part in that interactive session with great enthusiasm. Following that, we were given two kinds of training- one which gave us an idea about how astronauts move in zero gravity ( in space or the space shuttle) and the other was micro axis gravity simulator which gave an idea about the direction. We got to learn many new things through these simulators. We were also demonstratedhow a space shuttle took off, how it landed and how it was controlled from the Mission Control Building. Our trainers also showed us some experiments which were really very interesting andinformative. With that we ended our 2-day training programme at the Kennedy Space Center.
The next day we visited another theme park in Orlando, namely Universal Studios. We were allowed to spend 8 hours there. The park was full of numerous rides and various other games. All of us enjoyed the terrific roller coaster rides, the cool water rides and 3D movies. Each one had a gala time in the Universal studios. Finally after 7 pm, we left the park and after having dinner, returned to the hotel.
The following day we departed for Boston, in the state of Massachusetts by flight. Upon reaching Boston, we checked into our hotel and were taken for shopping. All wanted to take back mementos and gifts that would remind them of the trip. The next morning, after getting ready, we went to the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).We were taken for a robotics workshop. We were given a robot and a laptop by our instructor and asked to program the robot using two sensors – light sensor and touch sensor. It was amazing to see those tiny objects-robots speeding ahead with the sensory movements. Next we viewed the robotics gallery and were shown around the entire campus by a student of MIT. Following this, we went for the duck tour which was a bus ride.It was a fascinating experience, for, the bus moved on land and even swam in water.
At the Harvard University, the subsequent day, we attended a leadership training session after which we made a campus tour, led by one of the Harvardians. Never had any of us imaginedwe would enter the hallowed portals of the greatest institutes of the world- MIT and Harvard. It was worth the visit. At night we left for Niagara by bus and reached 8 hours later. Since it was dark, we checked into a hotel and the next day visited the Niagara Falls.It indeed was Paradise on earth. We also took a ferry ride, which took us beneath the Niagara Falls and the experience dumbfounded us. The same day we left for New York City by evening and reached there at night. We spend three days in New York. In New York we visited the Empire State Building, Madame Tussauds museum and the Statue of Liberty.
Finally, it was on 4thJune 2014 when we left for the New York airport to board the flight which would bring us back to India. Some of us were happy to return to India while some were sad to leave USA. The entire 14 day trip had been marvellous. We learnt many new things about engineering, robotics, aeronautics, space science, etc. The trip had been very enjoyable at all times and left us desiring for more such trips in future.