As­tro­nom­i­cal am­bi­tions

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By TALIA CARLISLE

Her class­mates want to be tele­vi­sion stars or jour­nal­ists, but Tawa stu­dent Lau­raJane Douch plans to be an as­tro­naut.

She is one of three New Zealand stu­dents selected to at­tend the United States Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, in July.

The 16-year-old Queen Mar­garet Col­lege stu­dent at­tended her first Welling­ton As­tro­nom­i­cal So­ci­ety meet­ing when she was 8.

‘‘I found it re­ally in­ter­est­ing be­cause other people had such a pas­sion for it,’’ she said.

Her ceil­ing is cov­ered with glow-in-thedark stars that repli­cate the sky above it on a July night.

‘‘I like learn­ing about the dif­fer­ent con­stel­la­tions,’’ she said.

‘‘There’s so much out there that there’s al­ways go­ing to be some­thing new to see each time.’’

Her fam­ily has a bach in Carter­ton, where she spends a lot of time stargaz­ing with her fa­ther, Colin.

Sci­ence runs in Laura-Jane’s fam­ily. Her fa­ther is a ge­ol­o­gist, her mother was for­merly the head of sci­ence at Tawa Col­lege and her brother is study­ing en­gi­neer­ing at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity.

‘‘Ev­ery­one would be re­ally sup­port­ive if I did be­come an as­tro­naut,’’ she said.

‘‘They’d be up­set if I went on the Mars One trip for the rest of my life, but I wouldn’t do that.’’

She said the space camp in Alabama was ‘‘sort of like as­tro­naut train­ing’’.

Stu­dents will spend a week team­build­ing, learn­ing about space mis­sions and test­ing sim­u­la­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence what it feels like to be in space.

‘‘I’m ex­cited about ex­pe­ri­enc­ing zero grav­ity. That will be in­ter­est­ing.’’

Laura-Jane learnt that brush­ing her teeth and drink­ing wa­ter in space were dif­fi­cult af­ter watch­ing YouTube videos of as­tro­naut Chris Had­field.

Out­side astron­omy, Laura-Jane en­joys play­ing net­ball, singing in the col­lege bar­ber­shop quar­tet and de­bat­ing.

She plans to com­plete a sci­ence or en­gi­neer­ing de­gree at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity once she has fin­ished col­lege.

‘‘I’m in­ter­ested in physics and maths is my favourite sub­ject,’’ she said.

Laura-Jane said she liked astron­omy be­cause it was an area of sci­ence that had not changed.

‘‘What we see is ex­actly the same as what the an­cient Ro­mans saw.’’

Space ex­plo­ration was ‘‘ in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant’’ for the fu­ture of the hu­man race, she said.

‘‘Do­ing ge­og­ra­phy, I know we’re go­ing to over­pop­u­late the Earth.

‘‘Some people think, ‘Why would we be putting money into space ex­plo­ration when we should be putting it into find­ing more re­sources on Earth?’

‘‘I think the way to fix the prob­lem is to find re­sources from other plan­ets.’’

Photo: TALIA CARLISLE

Starry eyes: Tawa stu­dent Laura-Jane Douch, 16, wants to be an as­tro­naut.

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