Graduating from space school
Costa Rican student Montse Cordero, second from right, graduates from United Space School, a summer program in Houston.
August 10th, 2012
03:49 PM ET

Graduating from space school

Editor's note: Montse Cordero is a 17-year-old student from Costa Rica participating in the Foundation for International Space Education's United Space School, a two-week summer program in Houston. She'll be blogging about her experiences in the program. Need to catch up? Check out her previous posts here.

It’s really weird to be writing a wrap-up post. It seems like just yesterday that I was writing about how I was getting ready to start space school, and I was feeling all nervous about meeting so many new people. Then again, when I think about everything I’ve learned since writing that post, it seems like it was ages ago. I think that all of the participants will agree that United Space School is some sort of time machine - a very good kind!

Since my last post, lots of things have happened. We had our final presentations Saturday and had to be at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, wearing our uniforms one last time. We had all practiced our parts and were confident in our work, and we were extremely nervous but also eager to show it to the world.

Each presentation was divided in three main parts: the presentation, questions from the audience (who were, scarily enough, a bunch of rocket scientists and space professionals), and finally our team song. The song is a United Space School tradition; each team picks a popular song, writes new lyrics for it having to do with the mission and sings it at the end of the presentation.

The presentations started with the gold team (don’t call the members yellow, or they’ll be angry and might take your funding away). The team was in charge of mission control, budgets, space law and such. The members explained how everyone’s budget was split, where they got the money from, which teams had the most and why, what their mission control center would look like, and how they dealt with space law. Questions were asked and then came the song. As everyone clapped and they returned to their seats, it hit me: We were up next!

Maroon team, my team, was up. We covered the design of our rocket, how it worked, from where we would launch, our marketing strategies, emergency protocols and education opportunities (what I talked about). Everything seemed to go well. I’d forgotten what I had prepared to say, but I just decided to explain what I knew, and it went pretty well.

It was time for questions, the most nerve-wracking part. We got lots of questions. Most we knew the answers to, but there were a few things that we hadn’t even thought about. Then it was finally time for our song, and our rendition of a modified "Call Me Maybe" sounded pretty good in my opinion.

The presentations went on. The red team had a good idea on how it was getting to Mars, the green team had quite an interesting habitat, and the blue team had a full plan on how it was exploring the red planet. The questions were tough, and the songs amazing.

After the last one, Rob Alexander (executive director of the Foundation for International Space Education) said that officials knew they had grilled us pretty hard but they wanted us to know we had impressed them and he was going to recommend to the board we all graduate. Lots of cheering followed, and before we knew it, we were out of there.

A few hours later, we had a pool party. It felt great yet weird to know that we were done with our projects. We swam, we played volleyball in the pool, we had diving competitions, and we ate. Some of us had S’mores for the first time (man, they’re good). None of us wanted to think it was one of our last activities together; we just enjoyed every second to the max.

The next day was graduation. Even though space school is a two-week program, graduation is a big deal. We arrived at the university all dressed up. We knew it was our last time together. Everyone had shirts to sign, things to share and hugs to give.

The ceremony finally started. We were all sitting with our teams for one final time. Speeches were given, and then the mentors were called out one by one. Each mentor got a certificate; they talked briefly about their teams, and then they called their team members one at a time and we were given our diplomas.

To finish, Alexander gave out some special awards. The first one was for leadership and sportsmanship during the United Space School vs. NASA All Stars match, and Stephen Orr from Kentucky got it. The award was a Houston Dynamo hat signed by all the players.

Then came the presentation of the flags in which they gave flags flown over Johnson Space Center to outstanding students. The honorees were Sally Bruce and Adrian Robb from New Zealand, Garrett Garneau from Kentucky and me. I was excited when I heard my name. I knew I’d done the best job I could, but I did not expect to be recognized, especially with such an amazing award.

There were lots of hugs and plenty of tears. As soon as I hugged the first person goodbye, I started crying my eyes out. It took us forever to say goodbye - no one wanted to leave. Pictures kept being taken, with people promising to keep in touch. Slowly people began to go.

The landing of rover Curiosity on Mars was the same night, and a few of us got the chance to go witness it at Space Center Houston. There were tons of activities there. I was glad to find out that a few friends were there as well. I ended up watching the launch with them, and it was tremendous fun.

It was nice being able to let my inner space nerd out with other people.

We went back home late and packed and stayed up all night. The next morning we said our final goodbyes to our hosts and were dropped off at the airport. I hate goodbyes, but I guess no one likes them.

After the program, I realized that I not only got some amazing space knowledge as expected, but I also made new friends, learned new teamwork skills and learned about how people live all around the globe.

Being with a host family taught me about how other people’s families work. It allowed me to see how similar we are yet how different. I will miss them all dearly.

I will finish high school in a few months, and then I’ll be applying to universities for math and physics programs. I love space, and I hope to one day work for the development of this science frontier. It’s time to put into practice everything United Space School 2012 taught us.

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Mindi Grochmal

    Birth control methods have been used since ancient times but effective and safe methods only became available in the 20th century. Some cultures deliberately limit access to contraception because they consider it to be morally or politically undesirable.,'..:


    June 8, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
  2. Guty

    What does this chat build or accomplish? Nothing! You shout at me, I shout back, we are both very paosisnate, and nothing of value is created. Only anger and resentment. I've been activisting for informed consent and patient's right to access accurate information since I experienced psychiatric abuse as a teenager, and fought and won against my own treatment team in court. I already know about how meds helps some people. What you are not hearing is that meds also damage people.

    September 12, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  3. Gilbert Moore

    The correct link to the article is:

    You'd think that CNN could figure that out. It only took me about a minute.

    August 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Ayu

      God's purpose for your life:Perhaps you've wreneodd, What is the purpose for my life? Or maybe you thought, There must be more to life than this! When you try to live life our way, sometimes everything falls apart and do not know what to do.But there is hope for a new dawn. When your heart is broken like a glass into a thousand pieces, and you feel a pain that does not let you pick up the pieces there is a solution. If you give all the pieces of your broken heart to our Saviour, He can help himself. He takes every bit of your heart and restore it to something beautiful. With Christ in the center of your life He restores you and gives you new life.At this point, you have the opportunity to hand over control of your life who created you, who loves you and who knows everything about your past, your present and your future. If you open your heart to Him, you will see that God has a specific plan for your life, which not only includes His purpose for creating you, but also His promise to give you a full life. If at this point and do not want to live life your way and you're ready to live life God's way, you'll find a life full of hope and true purpose.For the plan of God, know that:God's purpose for your life is salvation. God sent Christ to earth to condemn, but to express His love to save! Jesus came to take away all sin, but to forgive your sins, give you the power to overcome sin and the possibility of living a full life. (Read John 3:16-17 and John 10:10)Your problem is Sin. Sin is living separated from God established the rules for your life-knowing what is good, but have chosen wrong. The main consequence of sin is spiritual death, spiritual separation from God. (Read James 4:17 and Romans 6:23)God's provision for you is the Savior. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the price for your sins. To believe in Jesus Christ as the only way to reach God the Father is the only solution to the problem of separation from God. (Read Romans 5:8 and John 14:6)What you have to do is to surrender. Put your faith in Christ Jesus (depends on Him) as your Lord and Savior and refuses to good works as a way to receive God's blessing. When you give Christ control of your life, and completely trust your life to Him, He gives you eternal life with Him and His power to live a full life, which is his plan for you on this earth. (Read Ephesians 2:8-9 and Matthew 16:24-26)PRAYER God, I want a real relationship with you. I admit that many times I've chosen my own way and not yours. Please forgive me for all my sins. Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to pay the price for my sins. Come into my life as my Lord and Savior. By Your power, make me the person with the intention that I created. It is in your holy name I do is prayer. Amen. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you, and take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36:26-27Our sin is what separates us from God and prevents us from fulfilling our deepest desires and needs. According to Romans 6:23, sin is an offense against God that carries a serious penalty For the wages of sin is death (eternal separation from God's love and mercy). Acknowledge the sacrifice of ChristWhat you can do for yourself, Jesus Christ has done for you! But God demonstrates His own love toward us, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He died on the cross for you, and rose from the dead to prove that His payment was acceptable to God. But you must acknowledge and believe this fact. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Hechos16: 31).Accept Jesus Christ as their Savior (accept the son of God, Jesus)Salvation is God's gift to you. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). Dear God. I know I am a sinner. I know that You love me and want to save. Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God who died on the cross to pay for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead. Now I turn from my sins and through faith, receive You as my Savior and Lord. Come into my heart, forgive my sins and save me, Lord Jesus. In Your name I pray. Amen.

      September 10, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  4. dgdm1

    Is that it? That YOUR EDITOR has BIPOLAR II?

    August 16, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  5. dgdm1

    CNN – W T F?

    August 16, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  6. Bill Worthman

    The goof that provided the link must have Bipolar II and a few other accoutrements...

    August 16, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  7. jill cabana

    I sure would LOVE to read about bipolar disorder II so I know what it is...;)

    August 16, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  8. mshawntyler

    This link has been broken for two days!?!?

    August 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  9. opinionguru

    ... no one is stopping you!

    August 15, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  10. DJ

    Is this a test to see if I have bipolar II disorder?? This story is about Space Cadets.
    Know I know what people are talking abut when they talk about me and say,
    "Man, this guy is a real space cadet."

    August 15, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Guest

      It's been a couple of days and CNN still hasn't fixed this. Maybe they're in their depressive phase?

      (for those who don't get the joke, severe depression, either standalone or as part of bipolar disorder, can make a person nearly unable to do anything at all, starting with getting out of bed; take it from someone with a shortage of the stuff, serotonin is your friend)

      August 15, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  11. CanThinkForMyself

    This is the correct link for the bipolar article

    August 14, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Guest


      And if YOU can fix it, why can't CNN?

      Editor fail.

      August 15, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  12. xab

    Some bipolars do act spacey when in a manic stage, I guess.

    August 14, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Gemeniguy

      Bipolar II's experience hypomania, a step below mania. But bipolar disorder is a spectrum in which you can exhibit symptom's manic or hypomanic. The guy who wrote this article is probably bipolar and is experiencing grandiosity, one of the synptoms of bipolar disorder.

      August 15, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Aylin

      I dont know what kind of pot this woman smoked but there are very many pploee that will confidently say that pot does help you sleep. But one has to coin-cider as well that it is widely known that no drug effects everyone in the same way.

      September 13, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  13. tomatosquash

    I was thinking the author was going to breakdown at the pool party and it would lead into a serious discussion of a serious issue. Yes, this isn't the right article. It's too bad.

    August 13, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  14. Ja-Coffalotte

    Bi-Polar disorder is a made up diagnoses, it is actually just an omega-3 deficiency.

    August 13, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • CalmNC0llctd

      Right. That's why everyone diagnosed with Bipolar disorder just pops some fish oil pills and is fine. Um, not.

      August 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Guest

      Even if you were correct about the treatment (which, by the way, you're not) that wouldn't change the diagnosis.

      Some types of anemia can be treated with iron pills, but that doesn't mean they're "made up".

      I do find it amusing, though, that you proved so thoroughly that you did not actually read the article you were commenting on ... since the link is broken and it's not an article about bipolar disorder at all. I guess your mind is made up and you don't want to risk reading any alternative explanations, so you just go straight to posting your opinion without even reading what you're pretending to comment on. Fail much? 🙂

      August 14, 2012 at 9:17 am |
      • Kavitha

        Has it occurred to anoyne that we that it's irrational to believe we have a right to endless wealth and happiness at the price of the broken bodies and minds of millions of people in the Third World and increasingly our own bankrupt nation?

        September 13, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • Whatever

      Ya... uh... ok...

      Are you a Scientologist?

      Get a new line to sell fish oil!

      August 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  15. us_1776

    Somehow I don't think this is the right artcile for Bipolar II disorder.


    August 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Nick

      I totally agree.
      I clicked on the link "What is bipolar II disorder?" and it keeps directing me to this space crapp.

      Some people need to learn how to correctly link their articles.

      August 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm |


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