Hello, I am Nicole Raneri and I attended The United Space School in 2023 as the Western Canadian Delegate!

My two weeks at The United Space School were some of the best and hardest experiences in my life. I got to meet so many amazing people from around the world, and I could not have been happier to represent Canada. The United Space School is operated by the Foundation for International Space Education (FISE), and welcomes students from all over the world. This year there were 41 students (myself included) from 21 different countries. I knew very little or nothing about many of the countries that were represented, but I can now say that I’ve met and become lifelong friends with people from all over the world. The people that I met through the United Space School have already inspired me in so many ways, and helped me fine tune my passion into what could someday be a career.

The main objective at USS was to successfully design a mission to Mars. Before school started, all students had to complete preparatory assignments that pertained to each of the 5 teams. Red: Getting the spacecraft from Earth, to Mars, and back. Maroon: Landing on and launching from Mars. Green: Designing a martian habitat. Blue: Creating transportation and experimental equipment on Mars. Yellow: Mission control, budgeting, and space laws. I selected Red as my first choice and that was the team I was placed on! My team included 8 students, and while we did struggle a bit at the beginning, we were all able to find our individual and collective strengths! This really helped us not only work well as a team, but also work in tandem with the other 4 colours. We quickly learned the importance of thorough communication, as each of the teams became reliant on each other for information that was necessary to ensure the mission would be a success.

While most of our time at school was spent working on our team projects, we also had lectures from experts in the space industry every day of the first week.. These talks contained information that cannot easily be found anywhere else, so it really felt like we were getting exclusive access to the future plans of NASA, commercial space companies, and even university students who are working to change the world. Personally, the lecture I found most interesting was on how the Apollo landing sites on the moon will be preserved as people begin to go back to the moon! Even outside of school we were being taught so much! At the Star Party one night we learned about constellations, far off galaxies, and even the experience of astronaut Mike Baker. We also got to hear about the first-hand experience of the Apollo program from George Abbey, (the former director of The Johnson Space Center and the creator of The United Space School).

Along with our projects, we also had several field trips. Our 2 main trips were to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and to the Space Center Houston. At the museum we got to simulate landings on the Moon and Mars. Half of us worked in mission control and the other half were astronauts aboard a spacecraft. I worked on the data station, receiving messages, sharing them with the appropriate people on my team, then sending responses back to mission control. The Space Center is one of the most memorable experiences of my time at USS. There were thousands of space artifacts that we got to see, including moon rocks, Apollo capsules and suits from several astronauts. The Space Center also has a full-size mock up of a Space Shuttle that you can actually go inside! Just knowing that I was standing in a ship, nearly identical to those which actually carried astronauts into space, was truly a life changing experience. From the Space Centre, we were also taken on to NASA property at the Johnson Space Center, where we saw a full mock up of the ISS in the Astronaut Training Facility. Our next stop was at Rocket Park, the home of the only Saturn V rocket left in existence that was once flight worthy. The sheer size of the Rocket was breathtaking (especially how huge the engines are).

The best nights at the United Space School were Host Family Nights. These were the times when there were no planned events for us. Most of these nights were spent exploring the Houston area with friends from school. Some nights would just be casually shopping at the mall, going to Bucee’s (a ridiculously large gas station), and trying new places for dinner. One night, we all arranged to go to the Houston Astros game! For most of the students, this was their very first experience seeing a baseball game, so it was fun trying to explain the rules with my very limited knowledge of the sport. A few of us also got to go to a small amusement park one evening. The main roller coaster was old, wooden and shook a lot. It was so terrifyingly fun that we rode it as many times as we possibly could!

After 2 weeks of hard work and fun, we got to formally present our projects to our peers, host parents, and a board of F.I.S.E executives. The main components of our project were a slideshow presentation, detailing when and how we will get to Mars, and a model of our spacecraft built out of only garbage and recycling. Each of the teams were then also asked several difficult questions by the board members. We were able to quickly come up with good answers to most of the questions but some caught us totally off guard! To wrap up our presentations, each team also had to perform a parody of a well known song that we changed to be about our respective teams. My team did “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen, and I loved every minute of it!

The last day at USS was our graduation. The director of the United Space School, Francesco Fusco, and astronaut Bill McArthur spoke at our graduation before each of us were called up to stage to receive our certificates. The rest of the day was a party. Dozens of us screaming karaoke together and doing the macarena. I had never been so happy! Leaving that night was nearly impossible! We spent easily an hour saying our goodbyes, and wishing that we had more time together. I learned so much at the United Space School, but the new friends that I made are what made it worth it. I discovered new paths that I want to pursue in the future, and found what aspects of the space industry captivate me the most. Next year I'm hoping to begin school for mechanical engineering, and someday work to design new spacesuits and life support systems! The United Space School truly changed my life and helped me to solidify my future! It was the best few weeks of my life and I wouldn’t trade that for anything! I cannot thank the Hangar Flight Museum enough for sponsoring me in this amazing program! If not for their support, I would have never learned so much about my passion or met so many people! This program is truly like no other and I wish I could do it again!

If you have any interest in space, or aeronautics, I truly urge you to apply! If you have any questions at all or would like to hear more about my experience, feel free to email me at or message me on instagram at space_coley89