A West Valley youth who recently returned from the U.S. Space Camp program is calling the camp one of the best experiences of his life.

Paul Isom, 15, is one of more than 16,000 youths from throughout the world who participate in the camp every year. Isom toured NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where the U.S. Space Station is being developed, and participated in a special two-hour mission simulating space conditions.Isom flew to Florida for the five-day program, which began with an orientation in the shuttle cockpit and in ground-control simulators. Trainees were matched to assignments in mission control and in the orbiter before intensive mission training began. By midweek, the first teams were ready to start their missions.

Isom was part of a team that trained as mission specialists. Each team of 20 trainees participates in two missions. Half were in mission control, which monitored the activities aboard the shuttle. The others were in the orbiter crew and wore actual spacesuit mockups and climbed into simulators for work outside of the orbiter.

The camp also included lectures by leading aerospace engineers and scientists, who described development and operation of spacecraft and future projects. Films shot by astronauts in orbit were also shown to give the students a feeling of life aboard the space shuttle.

Isom received space-academy wings, a certificate and group photo at the end of the camp.