However, three Jersey City educators are taking the "space" issue to heart.
Hassane Raoudi, a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. School on Bergen Avenue, Melanie DeFilippis, who teaches at Public School 24 on Virginia Avenue, and Barbara Henderson, a teacher at the Rafael Cordero School on Erie Street, have been selected to participate in the highly prestigious 2007 Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program from this coming Monday, June 18 to June 29, 2006 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The three will join 265 science and math teachers from 21 countries and 43 U.S. states to take classes focused on space science and exploration in addition to participating in real-life astronaut training.
The three applied late last year.
While the trio will not likely be heading into space any time soon, they can bring their experiences back to the classroom.
During the program, Henderson, Raoudi and DeFilippis will participate in a variety of activities including 50 hours of classroom, laboratory, and field training.
This will be the second time that Henderson and DeFilippis are participating in the program, while this is Raoudi's first time. All three are leaving for Huntsville June 17.
"My students were so happy for me; congratulating me," Raoudi said. "But they think I am going to space."Twelve-hour days
DeFilippis said participating in last year's space camp meant 12-hour days over a nearly two-week period, where there were workshops on a variety of subjects dealing with space exploration and travel.
"Last year was amazing, interacting with different educators from different countries," DeFilippis said. "But it was a lot of work and a lot of moving around from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m."
DeFilippis, who teaches science to sixth graders at Public School 24, said that first time at space camp gave her special training that she was able to apply to her teaching during the school year.
"We did robotics training at the camp, where they showed us programs, and I showed my class how to do that," DeFilippis said. "In class, we also did lessons on landrovers that included scheduling them doing a race."
DeFilippis is looking forward to the second time around, which will include a few days at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where she will be learning scuba diving and hopes to see the current space shuttle Atlantis land back on earth, which is scheduled for June 21.
The Old Bridge resident also said her family - husband and two small children - are also looking forward to her trip but she knows they are already lamenting her leaving.
She said, "My three-year old is already asking, 'Mommy, are you coming back?'"
Henderson, a science teacher, brought back a souvenir from her stay at space camp last year that inspired her students throughout the year - her flight suit.
"I hung the suit onto the bulletin board in my class," Henderson said. "I think they got a big kick out of it."
She also looks forward to going back to space camp.
"Honeywell Space Camp treats you well, and you get an insiders look at the space program that most people may never see," she said.
For Henderson, the space training continues an interest she has had since her youth. While growing up in Southern California in the 1960s and 1970s, Henderson's mother worked for Rockwell International, which was responsible for building the NASA Space Shuttle.
"She worked on the prototype for the space shuttle, literally working on the inner panels doing the soldering," Henderson said. "And every day, she would talk about her work."
But Henderson has another reason for wanting to "reach for the stars."
"A number of years ago, one of my students said he wanted to be an astronaut, and people laughed," Henderson said. "I think it was because someone such as a child from the inner city wanted to do something different."
She continued, "I made a promise to my students that if their teacher can do that, then they can do that." Meeting one of his heroes
Raoudi, a native of Morocco, said he doesn't know what to expect from the space camp except he was instructed to bring "comfortable shoes." But he also reached out to other teachers who had gone through the space camp.
He said he is still surprised about being chosen but saw it as "a great experience for teachers."
Raoudi already knows what will be the highlight of space camp for him - meeting Homer Hickam, Jr., the writer of the book Rocket Boys, a memoir about growing up in West Virginia as a rocket enthusiast. The book would later be adapted into the 1999 movie October Sky. Hickam was a former employee of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
"I'm very happy, watching the movie about Homer Hickham and then getting to meet him," Raoudi said. "I was really amazed at how in the movie they showed mathematics being used to develop a rocket and getting the young boys in the movie out of trouble."
Raoudi, a math teacher, continued, "When I came to the United States seven years ago, I knew no English and couldn't study biology as I did in Morocco. So I went into mathematics, since it is universal." Doing the real thing
What would it be like to actually go into space? DeFilippis said she "would definitely do it" if offered the opportunity.
"I am little nervous thinking about going through the whole experience," DeFilippis said.
"But educators can become astronauts ever since Christa McAuliffe."
Christa McAuliffe was the first teacher to go into space as member of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded after launching on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members.
Raoudi said with a laugh, "Why not? I wish I can be there one day."
Henderson, however, viewed the idea with some trepidation. "I would love to have my feet on the ground," Henderson said. "Maybe do something in mission control." Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com