Even with her feet firmly planted on a schoolroom floor, Judy Cameron believes that she is getting closer to her childhood dream of flying in space.
"That is my ultimate goal," said the Bonita High School teacher, who wore a blue space suit with NASA badges and was surrounded by maps and aerial views of Earth as she delivered one of her special programs last week.
An avid space fan since she was younger than the teen-agers in her classroom, Cameron, 42, has done everything she can to get out of this world. Her most recent adventure was a five-day program last fall at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., where she took a layman's version of astronaut training.
The U. S. Space Academy, a program conducted at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility primarily for teachers, offered Cameron a variety of flight simulations, including weightlessness.
She returned to the classroom with new expertise--and samples of the freeze-dried food used in space--to share with students.
Since then, she has spoken to a variety of classes throughout the Bonita Unified School District and to clubs in the San Dimas-La Verne area.
"They always want to know what the food is like, how you go to the bathroom and how well we're doing in comparison with the Russians," Cameron said.
Her answers: Some of the food has the texture of Styrofoam, but it tastes good; yes, there are toilets aboard spacecraft, and the United States is still technologically ahead of the Soviet Union.
Cameron was one of 60 space addicts who attended the camp. Lee Sentell, assistant director of the Space and Rocket Center, said most participants are teachers who pay $450 for the five-day program because they are space enthusiasts who have difficulty keeping up with this rapidly changing field.
"Children tend to know more about the space program than their science teachers. I think that's because many of them are voracious readers of space science," Sentell said.
Cameron said she spent about $1,500 on the trip, including tuition and transportation, and hopes to return for another program.
Cameron said her husband, Dick, and son, Kevin, 16, support her dream of traveling in space. "My interest started with Sputnik and the realization that there had to be something up there," Cameron said. "From then on, I wanted to be up there."
When she was 10, she started flying with an uncle who was a pilot. She has taught for 16 years at Bonita High School, where she is a resource specialist and teacher of special education. She recently earned a doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy at the American Institute for Psychological Studies in Santa Ana.
"Now that I have that done, I plan to learn to fly a plane," she said.
Cameron was one of 950 teachers who applied for NASA's Teacher in Space program. Although Christa McAuliffe, picked to be the first teacher in space, died when the flight of the Challenger ended tragically two years ago, Cameron said her determination has not waned.
When the shuttle flights are resumed, she said, she wants to be a payload specialist. "I have a life-term goal of getting into space, either through NASA or by paying for it," she said.