Claire Watson is no rocket scientist – at least not yet – but her parents work in the field, sparking the Los Altos resident’s interest in space at a young age.
Over the summer, Claire, 11, attended Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
“I think the biggest thing that influenced me was my parents, because they work at a company that designs and builds rockets,” she said.
Claire first showed an interest in science and engineering at age 5, according to her father, Tim Watson. When the Watsons lived in Virginia, she visited the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where she learned about the history of the U.S. space program.
“This quickly evolved into her love of the planets and stars,” Tim Watson said.
That was just fine with Tim and wife Brynn, who design and build space vehicles and instruments for NASA and the military.
Daughter Claire may follow in their footsteps – or work for NASA in another capacity. Claire’s five days at Space Camp furthered her interest in space. Claire said she would consider a career designing space suits or working as an engineer in the mission control center – the same role she played in the Space Camp’s simulated mission to the International Space Station.
“My favorite part of going to camp was probably going on the simulated mission,” said Claire, a sixth-grader at Santa Rita School. “We have a mission with a spacecraft ... go into orbit and go back ... and there’ll be people in mission control and people in the craft.”
The camp gave Claire the opportunity to explore the Saturn V moon rocket, a 1/6-gravity chair and a Multi-Axis Trainer that allows participants to try to mimic maneuvering themselves in space.
The camp kept Claire busy, running 12 hours per day.
“First we wake up at 7:30 ... then we go and eat breakfast with our team,” she said.
Later in the day, she and her team would watch an IMAX movie on space and train for missions. At the end of each day, campers talked about the science and engineering of rockets – how they are built – and viewed samples of solid rocket fuel.
On the camp’s last day, Claire graduated and received the “Right Stuff” award in her Space Camp group from Col. Jerry Ross for her good attitude and leadership.