Space Camp first step toward Mars for local boys


Jacob Keller

Two local boys who each hope to be the first man on Mars took a step toward making that dream a reality this summer.

Jacob Keller of Ferdinand and Ervin Williams of Jasper, both 11, recently attended the weeklong Space Camp program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The center runs camps for all ages weekly. Keller and Williams attended the program geared for kids ages 9 to 11.

During their camp experiences, the boys ran model space shuttle missions, met astronauts and experienced several simulators. One of the simulators lets you experience what it feels like to float in space, which Jacob described as weird, “but you get used to it.”

The simulators were all cool, the boys agreed, but the biggest draw for Jacob and Ervin — who will both be sixth-graders this fall, Keller at Cedar Crest Intermediate School and Williams at Jasper Middle School — was learning what it takes to be an astronaut. Both boys want to be astronauts when they grow up.

“I think my first step was to go to space camp,” Ervin said.

To be an astronaut, the boys will need to take as many math and science classes as they can, earn college degrees in math, science or engineering, have 20/20 vision and be between 5 feet, 2 inches and 6 feet, 3 inches tall.

At 4 feet, 5 inches, Jacob knows he’s got some growing to do. But he isn’t worried. He’s wanted to be an astronaut his entire life, and height isn’t going to stop him.

“I just want to explore and help people see parts of our universe that 100 years ago people only dreamed about,” he said.

Ervin Williams

He knows space travel is dangerous, but he’s willing to take the risk.

“You put your life on the line for the world [as an astronaut],” Jacob said. “Not just your country. The world.”

He plans to be on the first manned mission to Mars, which could happen as early as the 2030s, he said.

Ervin also has that dream.

“I really like space, and I really want to be an astronaut when I group up,” Ervin said. “Every clear night I look up into the sky and see so many stars. It’s super cool.”

His mom, Cassie Williams, said Ervin’s dream to be the first man on Mars isn’t new. He’s wanted that for a while.

“We’re really excited that he’s curious about it,” Cassie said. “We [she and her husband, Aaron] just try to give him as many opportunities as we can.”

Likewise, Jacob’s dad, Joe, said becoming an astronaut and going to Mars has been all Jacob’s ever wanted to do. He remembers Jacob’s preschool graduation when the students all shared what they wanted to be when they grew up.

“You had your farmers, a nurse here or there, and then Jacob,” Joe recalled. “He’s wanted to get to space and be an astronaut since he was 4 years old.”

Both Ervin and Jacob said they’d go to space camp again if they could. If they do, they’ll have to attend the Space Academy program, as both will age out of Space Camp this year.

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