SOPHIE Ineson has always been fascinated by stars.
A visit to the NASA Kennedy Space Station in Florida, in the United States, two years ago, consolidated her passion and she had now become an advocate for the industry in her community.
Knowing most people in her community could not experience such a transformational opportunity, she knew she needed to act to show them what was possible.
This year she won New Zealand’s inaugural NASA essay competition in the Year 7 and 8 category and recently her passion was recognised by the TV show Fair Go in its Consumer Heroes competition.
The 12-year-old Southland Girls’ High School pupil completed a project about the lack of women working in the space industry.
She called for action to create better pathways for young women to get into the sector as she was keen to get into the space industry herself but had struggled to find any Kiwi women who had achieved what she wanted to.
“The competition was about something you think should be fixed and they would sort of help you with the matter.
“My one was about getting more women into space. I surveyed my class to see if they knew any women in space in general quite disappointing”
The idea came after she watched the movie Hidden Figures which told the story of African-American women Katherine Jonson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson who served as the brains behind NASA’s launch into orbit of astronaut John Glenn.
” I thought it was really weird that if if didn’t watch the movie, I wouldn’t know anything about those women or the important work they had done.”
Sophie wanted to create a mentoring programme for women so they could learn more about space and inspire other girls like her to pursue a career in the industry.
As part of her prize, Sophie and her class were able to talk with Rocket Lab engineer Arianna Ryan.
She said Ryan told her and her classmates about the work she was doing and what she had done to gain the position she was in.
“One of my friends was saying how she didn’t really know that you can have so many jobs to do with space.
“She found it interesting… It was not only the person who launches the rocket or the person who came up with the idea are needed to make everything happen.”
Next year, her class would also talk with a crew who worked at the International Space Station.
“That is quite cool,” she said.
Sophie still had a couple of years to decide what she wanted to do as a career.
However, she wanted to work with something related to space.
“I don’t know if I want to go to space but I want to help people to get there. I think it is quite scary [going to space].”
She hoped to see more women joining the industry in the near future.