THERE are not too many local students who can say they have experienced the life of an astronaut.
A group of Casula High School teenagers can definitely say they are in the minority — they recently spent six days living like space cadets.
The students from years 9 to 11 took part in the United States Space Academy and Field Studies Program.
The scheme, which had been running for the past three years, was open to students from metropolitan south-west Sydney schools.
It was designed to encourage students' interest in science and engineering and provide them career opportunities.
The Casula High students received physical training and had the chance to meet former astronauts and aeroscience engineers at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama.
Their training included microgravity simulations in a 10-metre-deep training tank, time in the flight simulator and leadership skill activities.
Participants were also exposed to the mental, emotional and physical demands astronauts can experience while they are in a space flight.
Year 11 student Bonnie Birch said she always had an interest in astronomy and was keen to be part of the program.
"It was the experience of a lifetime. I was always interested in space, so I really liked it," she said.
"The whole thing was about challenging yourself, learning leadership skills and new things.
"It was really great. We met new friends and all bonded over this one thing we had in common."