There are plenty of movies that revisit the childhood experience of attending summer camp. But, while most take place at some isolated lake in the woods where the biggest adventure is a canoe race, the 80s film SpaceCamp had loftier ambitions, instead choosing to launch its young guests into the stratosphere.

Released in 1986, this adventure/comedy was set at the real-life United States Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Kate Capshaw and Tom Skerritt provided the adult supervision, while rising stars Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott and Joaquin (then “Leaf”) Phoenix formed a youthful motley crew.

Skerritt plays ex-astronaut Zach, who runs SpaceCamp with the help of his astronaut wife Andie. Arriving at this junior training center are go-getter Kathryn, pretty boy Kevin, science whiz Rudy, junior Star Wars junkie Max and Tish, a Valley Girl with a photographic memory. The quintet are assigned to work together but their constant infighting sends the adults into stern lecture mode.

Surprisingly, the group wins a chance to sit in the real space shuttle as its engine boosters are tested. Little outcast Max has a robotic buddy named Jinx, who realizes the boy’s longing to see the stars. The robot rigs NASA’s computers so that the booster test turns into a real launch, sending Andie and the kids into outer space, and with a shortage of oxygen to boot. They’ve got the skills, but they’ll only make it back to terra firma by working as a team.

In a case of spectacularly unfortunate timing, SpaceCamp was due for release shortly after the tragic Challenger shuttle explosion. 20th Century Fox pushed the release date forward several months, but it still wasn’t enough. SpaceCamp barely got off the ground, but it did influence a generation of young space junkies and astro-wannabes to hound their parents for a trip to the real Space Camp.

Do you remember watching Space Camp back in the 80s? We’d love to hear all of your memories of the film in our comments section below.

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