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Save Space Camp! Crowdfunding campaign launched to avoid permanent shutdown

By Benjamin Bullard
US Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama

Space Camp, the summer destination that’s fueled many a kid’s dream of propelling their astronaut ambitions into adulthood, is launching a crowdfunding campaign to keep its doors open, as attendance has dwindled through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Huntsville, Alabama-based camp, hosted on the campus of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, is aiming to raise $1.5 million through a new GoFundMe blitz in an effort to bridge a gap in operating costs while waiting for the pandemic to subside — and for the guests to come back.

Meeting that target, says Space & Rocket Center Education Foundation chair Ben Chandler in the video below, would stave off permanent closure not only for Space Camp, but also for the adjacent U.S. Space & Rocket Center — one of the most popular space tourism destinations in the U.S., and the most heavily-visited tourist attraction in Alabama.

“The coronavirus pandemic has devastated our revenue stream, and without your support, we’re on a trajectory to have to close the doors of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Museum, Space Camp, and its sister programs sometime in October of this year,” says Chandler. Raising the funds, he adds, would allow the camp to remain open through spring of next year, just in time for what organizers hope is a busy, pandemic-cleared summer attendance season.

Despite its close working alignment with NASA, as well as serving as the Marshall Space Flight Center’s official visitor center, neither the museum nor Space Camp are federally funded. They’re administered instead through the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission, with costs recovered through visitor fees, supplemented by the nonprofit education foundation, which raises money to cover events, programs, and facilities.

Stargazers of a certain age likely got their first taste of Space Camp not by showing up in person, but by heading to the theater. Four years after its 1982 founding, the camp had proven popular enough to rocket to the big screen with the movie SpaceCamp, which featured a who’s-who lineup of young 1980s breakout stars including Lea Thompson, Kate Capshaw, Tate Donovan, Larry B. Scott, Joaquin Phoenix, and the late Kelly Preston. A present-day small-screen reboot of SpaceCamp is currently in the works at Disney+. 

The camp also has served as a childhood launch pad that helped blast off the careers of several real-life NASA astronauts, including Robert Hines, Kate Rubins, Sandra Magnus, and Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger. Virgin Galactic astronaut trainer Beth Moses is also a Space Camp alumnus, having attended the camp’s Adult Space Academy in 1989.

So far, Space Camp and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center have raised more than $450,000 in the single day since the GoFundMe campaign went live. To learn more, visit the campaign’s crowdfunding page.