Air Force mentors met the next generation of leaders in the space sector at the YMCA ‘Space Squad’ at the Bush Capital Lodge in Canberra from January 17 to 21.

They inspired and engaged young people with an interest in space, encouraging them to seek answers to the big questions they have, and about Air Force careers in space.

Space Squad is an immersive, residential holiday program for young people who love space. It builds a community of people who share a passion for all things space and STEM, physics and aerospace.

Students from across Australia participated in hands-on experiences, learnt practical skills, worked as teams and formed new friendships.

Staff Officer Space Control Squadron Leader Mel Vreugdenburg was one of the Air Force mentors to Space Squad.

“It is so inspiring to meet these young people – their passion for space is contagious. They really are the next generation of leaders we need,” Squadron Leader Vreugdenburg said.

Air Force officer Squadron Leader Mel Vreugdenburg talks to participants who have interest in STEM the YMCA Space Squad camp in Canberra.

Sixteen-year-old Phoebe Budd, a Space Squad participant, echoed this sentiment.

“Space Squad gives us an opportunity to see the real-life applications of STEM – it’s not just calculating a precise angle, it’s using that angle to plan the trajectory of a rocket,” Miss Budd said.

“The personal stories from Air Force personnel about the range of careers available in space were really valuable – I had no idea that space analysts existed.”

Space is critical to defence operations and capabilities, and Air Force has committed $7 billion over the next decade to transition from consumer to sovereign contributor in space. 

Air Force supports Space Squad camps, foster an understanding of space exploration and science, and introduce young people to Air Force engineers, ethicists, astronomers and astrophysicists.

Twenty 15 to 19-year-olds from across Australia participated in a COVID-safe Space Squad camp in Canberra in January 2022.

About 75 per cent of participants were female.

Space Squad camps are run throughout the school holidays. Further information on camp schedules and registration can be found at

To view more photos visit the Defence image gallery.