HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Sixteen future explorers began their journey into the future this week in the Rocket City.

The students, recipients of an Air, Space, and Missile Defense Association, or ASMDA, scholarship, spent July 2-7 at Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. On July 5, the scholarship winners were treated to lunch by members of the ASMDA board and had a chance to speak with those who made the week possible.

"The principles you have learned this week are the principles to teach leadership, decision making and give you the tools you are going to carry with you well after you leave here," said Tom Webber, ASMDA board member. "The teamwork you learn here will take you through the rest of your life.

"Reach for the stars and pay attention to your education and learn everything you can," he added "Remember to have fun in whatever you decide to do and become well rounded in all aspects of your life, not just with schoolwork."

Since 1996, ASMDA has awarded scholarships to children, ages 9-11, of a parent or guardian currently assigned to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command; Program Executive Office Missiles and Space; Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense; Missile and Space Intelligence Center; NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; or Missile Defense Agency, whether military or government civilian.

The 16 Space Camp students this year are from Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Virginia and Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. They are: Audrey Beard, Tessa Delisio, Marina Dethlesfsen, Breanna Jones, Matthew Kimmett, Rachel Mann, Peyton Markham, Zoe Moore, Elizabeth Murphy, Anna Nguyen, Arian Phillips, Nathaniel Raineault, Lauren Sheehy, Elizabeth Tourville, Grace Townson and Bennett Whichard.

Community leaders also talked to the campers and told them how proud everyone was of them for being selected and congratulated them on receiving the Space Camp scholarships.

"To each of our Space Camp attendees, you are the future," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. "There is a challenge to each of you. Take the experience you have had here and then go out and learn all you can to lead us into the future."

During the week, the children participated in activities including rocket construction and launch, water activities, a simulated Space Shuttle mission, Mars mission simulation, Manned Maneuvering Unit, Multi-Axis Trainer, and an IMAX movie.

"This is awesome," Raineault said. "Space Camp is a great experience. I have loved the missions and the simulators. It is really cool.

"Tomorrow, I get to be the commander of the shuttle," he added. "It will be fun because I get to be in charge. I can't wait."

The students were selected for the scholarship based on an essay, school grades, interest in science and space, and financial need. The scholarship covers one week at Space Camp, travel, a flight suit, clothing package, a calling card and spending money.

"I have enjoyed Space Camp a lot," Delisio said. "I like doing the missions and making new friends. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"I've been the space station scientist and a mission specialist," she added. "Everyone should come to Space Camp because it is really fun."