Nasa stopover on 'trip to outer space'

17:00, May 19 2014
Monique Oliver
SCIENCE BUFFS: An upturned beaker in the science lab is a stand-in moon for New Plymouth students Monique Oliver and Sam Tullett, who have been chosen to go to Nasa later this year.

New Plymouth students Monique Oliver and Sam Tullett are leaving the country for the first time in July - to plot a trip into outer space.

The 16-year-olds from New Plymouth Girls' High School and New Plymouth Boys' High School have been selected to travel to Nasa's base in Houston, Texas.

They fly out on July 27 for a two-week visit as part of an annual programme between the Johnson Space Centre and the Taranaki schools.

Sam said their main goal was to plan a mission to Mars. "I'm excited about the whole idea about being in a big institute with people from around the globe."

The most exciting part of the trip for Monique would be experiencing a different country.

"It'll be cool meeting new people who have the same interests as me and I've never been out of New Zealand before. But I'm kind of nervous about meeting them."


To be eligible for selection for the trip, girls' high students needed to be in the top 5 per cent in any year 11 science class, while boys' high students had to show an interest in the subject area and enthusiasm to learn.

Sam said people in some bigger countries and in the United States had to sit an exam to be considered for selection.

Both Monique and Sam take a range of year 12 science classes and Monique is also doing scholarship-level physics and chemistry.

"We're both so grateful to be chosen for a once in a lifetime trip," said Monique, who hopes to study in California and pursue a career as an astrophysicist or oceanographer.

Mentoring the students on the trip will be former New Plymouth Girls' High student Jess Dallas, who visited Nasa in 2006.

"We got to meet a lot of people who work at Nasa in various roles such as astronauts, space suit designers, scientists, and engineers. It was very inspiring and definitely encouraged me to pursue a career in science."

Dallas now works at a research centre in Copenhagen which focuses on exploring the origin and evolution of the solar system.

Monique and Sam will stay with host families in Texas and need to provide 50 to 60 gifts for students from other countries.

They have to pay for their own airfares and course fees of US$750 (NZ$868), and though they are being supported by Taranaki Hardcore, they are still on the hunt for further sponsors.

Emma James is a WITT journalism student.

Taranaki Daily News