8 Sep 2017

Rocket Teams’ 2017 Trip to Kennedy Space Center

After again capturing the two team division victories (Tribal & American Indian Science and Engineering Society teams) at NASA’s 2017 First Nations Launch in Wisconsin this year, the Northwest Indian College rocket teams were partially funded to the tune of $12,000.00 for a VIP trip and tour at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida (to learn how NWIC took two 1st place titles in the NASA competition, click here). Lisa Redsteer, Christian Cultee, Ramona Cultee, Raven Redhorn, Renae Stanley, Mariah Holiday, Tamara Tso, Melvin Miles, Mikale Milne, Yakaiyastai Gorman, Allen Julius, Paige Julius, Lavine John, Shelley Macy, and Gary Brandt made the trip.

We left at 5:00 am, July 31 and returned at midnight on August 4 and after flight cancelations and airport shuttle, we made it home near 3:00am on Saturday. Thirteen of us went and were treated to a spectacular tour. We were escorted through areas that tourists do not normally have access to such as the command center that controlled the lift-off of the space shuttle and other NASA rockets.

We also were presented with a tour of the VAB, (Vehicle Assembly Building), where the rocket pieces are stacked vertically prior to being moved to the launch stand; quite a large and impressive building, as you can imagine. After lifting the Space Shuttle to a vertical position, it has to hang for 4 hours to remove any motion. The Space Shuttle’s wingspan was dictated by the opening in the VAB!

The weather was an interesting factor again this year. Instead of intense heat and outrageous humidity, the trip was in the aftermath of Tropical Depression Emily which brought slightly less heat, still outrageous humidity and LIGHTNING! We all ran and ducked for cover whenever lightning appeared.

We couldn’t have done this without the support of Northwest Indian College, Lummi Indian Business Council, Washington and Wisconsin Space Grant Consortiums and other community support. Many thanks to all of you!!

~Article written by Gary Brandt, Northwest Indian College faculty & rocket club faculty advisor


Melvin & Lavine in Launch Control Crawler that moves rocket to launch pad
Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) Shuttle Atlantis
Ramona launching Atlantis Mikale & Allen in Launch Control
Atlantis in VAB Hubble Telescope
Kiaya, Mariah, Tamara on beach Paige at the business end of a Saturn V
Christian as Payload Manager Yakaiyastai, Mariah, Tamara
Lisa Renae
Christian, Romona, Gary, Shelley Gary

Student Comments


Such a honor, and humbling experience to be the winning team for the second year in a row. Shows how much dedication, commitment, and handwork our teams put into the building process and teamwork up until the First Nations Launch. Along with the hard dedication our Advisor Gary Brandt put in, to make this all happen for us here at Northwest Indian College. Being able to return to Kennedy Space Center for the second year, has defiantly been an amazing accomplishment, especially coming from an academic background where my education pathway has nothing to do with engineering, but specifically in Native Environmental Sciences. Most of my fellow teammates have no background in engineering, but we seem to come out on top due to our open minds, ingenuity, and AWESOME teamwork. Also, thanks to the awesome team of NASA Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium for making our trip to KSC such a delight.


I really enjoyed visiting the Payload bay, the Cryogenics Lab, and the NASA Visitor Center the most. The Payload bay was awesome to be able to not only see the scale of the building needed to house the boosters, rockets, and space shuttles, but also to hear firsthand about the precision, pressure, and difficulty from the payload manager that has worked there 35 years. We also got to hear him explain how the cranes required such precision to work in such tight spaces and corners.

The Cryogenics Lab was awesome because who doesn’t like to learn about sub-zero extreme temperatures while experimenting with liquid nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen? The manager was very down-to-earth and friendly in his explanations of what goes on in the lab and was by far the friendliest and easiest to understand. It was awesome hearing about the different insulation materials and being able to see how the insulation gel worked. He was also funny which made it easy to stay interested in the material.

The NASA Visitor Center was awesome because we not only got to interact with space equipment and shuttles, but also got to watch videos and hear presentations on the men and woman who were brave enough to venture into space. The Atlantic Space Shuttle experience building was my favorite and I even simulated landing the space shuttle from Orbit and managed it on my second try! Also, being able to watch the movie on the Atlantic Space Shuttle was so cool when the bay opened up and there was the Atlantic Space Shuttle to view in person.

I won’t miss the Florida humidity and heat, rain and thunderstorms any time soon, but I will miss being able to learn more about NASA and its history and endeavors. I want to thank the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium for providing us the treat to visit KSC, Cape Canaveral and also thank NASA for providing a wonderful tour and a chance to meet with its liaisons of the many different departments.


I just want to thank Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium for such a rewarding trip! My love for rockets and the groundwork behind it has grown so much because of the guidance and encouragement of passionate people who are involved in this program. As an indigenous woman there is a perpetual struggle with a “stigma” as a minority and as a woman in Western Society. This is largely because we are still undermined with the lack of opportunities given to our communities. These accusations can be proven wrong because within communities it is how you apply yourself that matters. In everything you immerse yourself you have to give it 110%. Good work ethics will show your attentiveness and reliability in your college and job career. I am grateful to be a part of NWIC Rocket Club and at a college where support and opportunities are given by faculty who are devoted to see you succeed.


I thought the trip was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed the tour around NASA Kennedy Space Center. My Favorite part was when we was at the shop with all the CNC [mills], 3D [printers’, and the water jet machines. My second favorite was when we were at the actual control room where the launch countdown happened for the Atlantis Shuttle. If I can go back I most definitely would.


The trip to KSC this year was one that I will never forget! Every second of the tour was better than the last! Each presenter we had the honor of visiting gave us nothing but kind words of encouragement which reignited my personal interest in working for NASA. My family and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to make such great friends who are working on such groundbreaking projects. Such highly respected scientists were so very humble and so very welcoming of our group. They encouraged us to pursue a career at NASA and to encourage our relatives to do the same. One of the things I’m most appreciative of is the fact that they shared a space with a wildlife reserve and in that way had to operate with that in mind. They were very open about this fact and were even encouraging us to look out for some of the wildlife that may be roaming of which we saw a few, particularly a large wild hog crossing the street just as our bus passed by, looking healthy as ever. The level of consideration begin applied to the wildlife is precisely the reason I am considering pursuing a career at NASA and specifically Kennedy Space Center, what this demonstrated to me is that no matter how high in the sky NASA dreams may lie, they will always do what’s best for their own at home.


The indigenous students in the NWIC Rocket Club are a league of their own ranging in different ages and experiences. WSGC and NASA have given me and fellow students the opportunity to break stereotypes and become role models for our communities. Our accomplishments are reminders of how far we have come as indigenous peoples and a reminders of our capabilities. Thank you WSGC and NASA for giving us this opportunity.


The trip to the NASA Kennedy Space Center was a wonderful trip that not only left a positive impression on me, but also on my daughter Romona, who was also able to attend! It’s an experience that I will reflect on for years to come. Not only that, but it was also a hopeful glimpse at the future for my own career path and for other tribal students. Thank you for the amazing opportunity!


It was such an amazing experience to have gone to the Kennedy Space Center and to the visitors center as well. I loved learning about every department from Swamp Works, cryogenics, the engineering programs, Pathways* and also hearing the inspirational stories of all the people who work for NASA. It is just amazing how people don’t know what kind of history they are writing or that their everyday lives could inspire someone else. That was what I found so appealing, is that the people I came across spoke of their life stories and I could relate to them because their situations resonated with me. I had many questions, I felt eager to get as much knowledge as I could out of this experience because I know there is someone less fortunate then me wishing and praying for an opportunity like this. It really meant a lot for WSGC to take notice in our team, inspire us and take time to help us to see what more is out there for us. It was over all incredible on every single level.


I had an amazing time during the trip to Florida to explore the Kennedy Space Center. I liked that we got to tour the Swamp Works Lab, the Cryogenics Lab, the Visitor Center, the Vehicle Assembly Building, and the control room where we were able to see people in action with their jobs. I really enjoyed the control room because I believe that is where all the action happens. It was a wonderful experience that we got to see these different areas and what potential jobs they have for us there. I am grateful that I and my daughter, Paige, were able to be there. And Florida was nice to visit as well.