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 17 families to US Space Camp to bond as a family–and as a crew.

In 2021, we hosted seven families across two weekends for custom Family Space Camp weekends at US Space Camp–a total of 24 people! These weekends were created especially for Cosmic Odyssey during reduced Camp operations due to the pandemic. 

In 2022, we hosted ten families across two new weekends: a Family Space Camp weekend and a Family Aviation Challenge weekend. 40 additional people experienced the awe of a Space Camp Weekend!

In 2023, we plan to host an additional five families (17 people) in July!

Each weekend includes visits by US Space Camp Hall of Fame members and alumni in addition to traditional Camp missions and activities. Scholarship participants have time to bond as a family and with other scholarship families in similar pediatric cancer situations. Participants also hear from special Space Camp alumni who are cancer survivors themselves.

Travel, hotel, food, and Space Camp experiences are all 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?

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 families to a special weekend session of Family Space Camp in 2023.

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!