Rocket Lab visit perfect timing

Fired up . . . Answering questions about space from East Gore School pupils is Rocket Lab education lead Felicity Powell, who visited the school last Wednesday. PHOTO: MICHAEL CURREEN

Founded by Southland-born Peter Beck, aerospace company Rocket Lab is inspiring the next generation of Southlanders to reach for the stars.

East Gore School was among those visited recently by Rocket Lab education lead Felicity Powell.

Deputy principal Sarah Gilbert said the pupils had already started learning about space this term and MsPowell’s visit, which took place last Wednesday, came at the perfect time.

‘‘It was really great. She was really motivating and inspiring . . . [The children have] learned a lot of new things.’’

Having someone involved in the space industry visit the school helped show the pupils a career in that field was attainable in New Zealand, Ms Gilbert said.

‘‘They asked really really interesting questions of Felicity.

‘‘The children asked questions about the rockets. They asked questions about the planets and the moon as well, and she was able to answer those.’’

Ms Powell said the pupils had fantastic questions and she loved their enthusiasm and curiosity.

Her visit was part of Rocket Lab’s space ambassador programme, which got pupils thinking about a career in the space industry, she said.

‘‘We go out into schools and we help young people and hopefully get them drummed up and excited about space and STEM and what Rocket Lab does,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s really important to us to think about the future of our space industry. Hopefully, in 10 years’ time we’ll start seeing the young people that we’ve met in our space ambassadors’ visits.’’

Sitting in on the visit was Southland MP and National Party spokesman for space Joseph Mooney.

‘‘The reason I’m here is twofold,’’ he said.

‘‘This is one of the schools in my electorate. . .[a] great school here in Gore, and the other [reason] is that I’m actually the only spokesperson for space in a political party in New Zealand.

‘‘I have a specific portfolio for space because the National Party thinks it’s really important for New Zealand’s future.’’

He thought Ms Powell gave a fantastic talk and showed pupils the opportunities that were available to them and the importance of STEM subjects.

‘‘This is anincredibly exciting opportunity for New Zealand and it started right here in Southland.

‘‘Peter Beck has kicked off the space industry in New Zealand —he’s a Southland boy,’’ Mr Mooney said.

‘‘Thanks to his crazy dream, New Zealand is actually one of the leading space-faring nations in the world right now and the opportunities for our kids to get involved in this is amazing.’’