Interest in space science gains NASA recognition

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Southland high school pupils Oshadha Perera and Sophie Ineson recently took part in a NASA essay writing competition. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

TWO Southland pupils recently took on the world national NASA essay writing competition.

High school pupils Sophie Ineson and Oshadha Perera both competed in a nationwide National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) competition, which required pupils to write an essay persuading NASA which of three moons it should travel to. Both picked Triton, one of Neptune’s 14 moons.

In New Zealand, the competition was run by the New Zealand Space Agency but, as it was part of a global competition, their work was posted to the NASA website, which Sophie (11) called a dream come true.

Winner of the Year 7-8 category, the Southland Girls’ High School pupil said she was one of several picked from her school to be involved.

“I love science and I’m interested in astronomy. In 2018 I was lucky to visit NASA and I enjoyed seeing the displays like the Atlantis Shuttle and space suits. I find the International Space Station (ISS) really interesting.”

Her grandmother, who lives in Dunedin, inspired her interest in the ISS when she took her outside one night to watch it pass over.

The result of the competition was announced during lockdown, and she felt happy, excited and pleased her work was a success.

Both pupils received a 15cm Dobsonian reflecting telescope for their winning essays; Southland Boys’ High School pupil Oshadha (15) said he was delighted to win the Year 9-12 category.

“The main reason I entered the competition was my interest in astronomy and space science. I am delighted to win it, especially since it is a national competition. I got a telescope as a prize – which was way larger than I expected – and the Southland Astronomical Society set it up for me and taught me how to use it.”

Sophie said she was overwhelmed with how big the telescope was.

“I never imagined I could have something like that. The first time I saw the moon through the telescope it was amazing. You could see the craters and colours and where the Earth’s shadow was making it darker. It was almost three-dimensional.”

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