Astronomy FTX 2017
Article and pictures by 1st Lt TeriLee Hammond
Blackhawk Cadet Squadron hosted an Astronomy FTX at the Mountain Dell Scout Ranch in Sanpete County from September 22nd through the 24th. The FTX introduced cadets to Astronomy, team building and astronaut skills. Capt. Sarah Borden and Lt. Randy Mansfield did an amazing job organizing this event and making sure the cadets had a fun but educational and hands on experience.
Upon arrive at Camp Tifie on Friday afternoon, C/1st Lt Liu sorted the cadets from Blackhawk, Thunderbird, Phoenix, Raptor and Uintah squadrons into flights and then assigned billeting in the basic cabins. C/2d Lt Kligman, and his kitchen staff, then organized the kitchen supplies and prepared to feed the cadets for the weekend. That evening, Lt Thomas Quayle instructed the cadets on how to assemble and maintain a classic Dobsonian-style telescope. He also taught them skills that included optical alignment of telescope mirrors, targeting stars using both traditional lens optics as well as laser-finder methods, determining minimum and maximum eye-piece powers that can be used, basic use of filters and various eyepieces so the cadets could study the stars that night. They also learned about star orientation skills and how to use guide stars and seasonal constellations to find certain objects in the night sky.
Saturday morning everyone woke up to a cold and frosty day that later turned into the first snowfall of the season. The cadets learned about and helped assemble radio telescopes that allows astronomers to see details about stars and the cosmos that are blocked from view of visible light. Another activity was held in the heated pool where the cadets learned the basics of scuba diving and neutral buoyancy. They had to work together as a team to put together an underwater structure which they then had to maneuver in and out of. This helped the cadets understand how astronauts trained for zero gravity.
There were also team building activities including a High Cope Course which had two levels of rope bridges and obstacles 15 to 25 feet in the air ending with zip lines that also challenged the individual cadet’s strength, balance, focus and nerve. Another activity was a drone assisted search and rescue. One team would be assigned as ground team and the other as air support. They used a drone as the eyes in the sky so the team could radio to the ground team how close they were getting to the search target.
Saturday night was too cloudy to gaze at the stars again but cadets were kept busy with indoor activities as the snowflakes really started to come down. By Sunday morning there was a good covering of snow on the camp and the higher elevations. The FTX was a great opportunity for everyone and the cadets left with a broader understanding and hopefully a spark to continue in science and related education and careers. But kids will be kids and we had to finish out the activity with a good old-fashioned snowball fight before everyone went their separate ways.