Cosmic Odyssey Scholarship logo - text only

Sending families affected by pediatric cancer

on an incredible trip to US Space Camp. Together.

The Cosmic Odyssey Scholarship

Sending families affected by pediatric cancer on an incredible trip to Family Space Camp in Huntsville, AL

We are currently accepting applications for our 2022 cohort of participants!

Cancer patients, survivors, and families can now apply for a chance to join our TWO camps this summer.

Camp Dates

Space Camp: June 10-12, 2022

Aviation Challenge: June 17-19, 2022

Important Application Dates

Early bird applications close: March 13, 2022

Early bird applicants notified: by March 25, 2022

All applications close: April 17, 2022

All applicants notified of acceptance: by April 29, 2022

Logo for Space Camp - astronaut figure on a red, white, and blue background

We have sent 22 families to US Space Camp to bond as a family–and as a crew.

Since 2021, we have sent 81 people from 22 families on the adventure of a lifetime at US Space Camp!

Families work together as a group throughout the weekends to successfully complete training and missions. Every participating member of the scholarship families (adults and kids!) is a part of the weekend mission, changing up typical family dynamics. The crew participated in activities and simulators including planetarium shows moon walks!

Each scholarship weekend includes:

  • traditional Space Camp missions and activities for all family members (yes, adults too!)
  • guided tours of the US Space and Rocket Center
  • visits from members of the US Space Camp Hall of Fame
  • special talks from Space Camp alumni who are also cancer survivors
  • creating artwork that will launch to actual space on a Blue Origin rocket–and be returned to the families!–through the “Postcards to Space” program from Club for the Future
  • a Space Camp flight suit, graduation certificate and wings to show the world that they have “The Right Stuff” to make their dreams come true!
  • time to bond with other families in similar pediatric cancer situations 
  • Travel, hotel, food, and tuition provided at no cost to the families

Thanks to everyone that donated, participated in our fundraising auctions, and helped spread the word about the scholarship to eligible families. YOU make this all possible. 

Click here for a news story from WAAY 31 in Huntsville featuring some of our August 2021 families.

Special thanks to:

Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

The Space Camp Alumni Association

for their support of the scholarship families.

A group of scholarship families poses with Cosmic Odyssey volunteers at US Space Camp in 2021. At far left is Space Camp Hall of Fame Inductee and Cosmic Odyssey advisor Tara Sweeney.

Why Space Camp? Why pediatric cancer families?

The Cosmic Odyssey Scholarship was created by Niko Blanks based on his own experience as a pediatric cancer survivor. He felt a strong desire to give other pediatric cancer survivors the same transformative experience he had at US Space Camp.

Niko’s story

Nikolas Blanks’ love of space began at age 4 with a viewing of the iconic space movie Apollo 13 with his grandfather. He later developed an inoperable brain tumor which required treatment to stabilize and contain. With the support of the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer, Niko successfully completed his cancer treatment. Afterwards, Niko wondered if he would be able to realize his dream of spaceflight–did he still have ‘the right stuff’ after battling cancer? 

To find out, Niko attended Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. The experience renewed his confidence and passion for aerospace. He returned to camp three more times, including a week of Elite Space Academy where a new Mars mission simulation was first used. That session was filmed for the 2017 documentary The Mars Generation (available on Netflix).

Following his experience at Space Camp, Niko enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL, where he is currently studying Spaceflight Operations. He also works as a Research Assistant in the ERAU Spacesuit Utilization of Innovative Technology Laboratory (S.U.I.T. Lab). In 2020,  he served as Chief Engineer on the Sensoria M3 lunar simulation mission at the HI-SEAS habitat in Hawaii. In June 2022, he started as a Test Engineer at aerospace company Blue Origin.

During an eight-week SpaceKind training course with Yuri’s Night co-founder Loretta Whitesides in 2020, Niko expressed his desire to ‘pay it forward’ and create the opportunity for someone else impacted by pediatric cancer to have the same life-changing experience he did by attending Space Camp. Yuri’s Night and the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer worked together to make that happen in 2021 and to expand the scholarship in 2022.

Niko in a space station simulator at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex during Yuri's Night 2019.

Going [to Space Camp] motivated me to be the best person that I could be and use my passion for space in the best way that I could. I think for a lot of people it has had the same effect on them. Whether they end up going into the space industry or not, or become astronauts, people that attend Space Camp are changed forever.

With your help, we are sending more families to a special
weekend family session of US Space Camp!

Yuri's Night logo - line art of helmeted astronaut head inside a circle
Austin Hatcher Foundation
The Cosmic Odyssey Scholarship is a creation of Niko Blanks with support from
The SpaceKind Foundation, Yuri’s Night and the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer. 
The Scholarship is run by a volunteer team that includes:
  • Niko Blanks, scholarship founder, pediatric cancer survivor, and aerospace test engineer 
  • 1st Lt. Tara Sweeney (USAF, Retired),  Space Camp Hall of Fame Inductee and former VP of Space Camp
  • Loretta Whitesides, Founder of Yuri’s Night, Chair of the Board for The SpaceKind Foundation
  • Amy Jo Osborn, President + CEO at Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer
  • Tim Bailey, Executive Director of The SpaceKind Foundation and Inflight Manager for Zero-G
  • Christy Fair, Operations Director for Yuri’s Night

Special thanks to Dr. Michelle Christensen, Penny Pettigrew, Josh Whitfield, Chris Sembroski, Abigail Peterson, DeLaina Yancey, and everyone that has supported our Cosmic Odyssey families on-site in Huntsville!