I was never a Space Camp kid. It was so far outside my family’s price range that virtually going to the moon at Space Camp felt very similar to literally going to the moon on an Apollo mission. That’s not to say I wasn’t intrigued by space. I was raised in the thick of the Star Wars years and the first model I ever built was of the space shuttle Challenger. But it remained the sort of experience that hovered beyond my reach until I was well into adulthood.
For me, the idea to finally go to Space Camp really resurfaced about a decade ago. I’d been writing about ecology and the more you know about what we’re doing to the planet, the more you realize that it may not be able to sustain us forever. For adults caught in the quagmire of the news cycle and fears about the environment, the notion of traveling to the final frontier is intensely alluring. So when National Geographic invited me to Space Camp as part of their promo for One Strange Rock, a documentary miniseries that premiered last night, I jumped at the offer.
As I prepped for a week in Huntsville, Alabama, I watched screeners of One Strange Rock‘s first three episodes. The show is based on a wonderful conceit: That to truly know earth you have to take the long view. Like… the really long view. From space. Each episode uses the expertise of astronauts to put our planet into perspective. These unique viewpoints are then processed for the audience by Will Smith, whose joy-for-living and insatiable curiosity make him the viewer’s perfect avatar.
The show deftly melds Nat Geo’s passion for the wild world with producer Darren Aronofsky’s rare talent at mixing massive set pieces with moments of quiet intimacy, all filtered through Smith’s relatable persona. By the time I watched astronaut Chris Hadfield tell an absolutely nerve-wracking story about having to clear his space suit while outside of the shuttle on a mission, I was beyond hyped on my Space Camp trip. And that was only three minutes into episode one.