Astronaut visit cost ratepayers $13,000
A top Nasa spacewoman who inspired Porirua children to reach for the stars is hoping to return to the city for another visit.
Astronaut Dr Yvonne Cagle and Nasa scientist Dr Jen Blank visited schools and gave a public talk in Porirua as part of a twoweek Wellington Space & Science Festival in May.
The festival’s not-for-profit organisers footed their travel and accommodation costs.
But details released under the Official Information Act revealed Porirua City Council spent $12,995 on creating three days of activities for the Nasa employees to attend.
They included a welcoming powhiri at Hongoeka Marae, a screening of the film Hidden Figures at Te Rauparaha Arena, and visits to three schools - Mana College, Bishop Viard College and Samuel Marsden College.
Porirua Mayor Mike Tana said the cost to ratepayers added to the value of the visit for the city’s children.
‘‘We got at least 1000 people in front of [Cagle], entirely inspired and engaged.’’
Cagle enjoyed her time so much she offered to come back in December.
‘‘She said, ‘I feel like I left my heart here’ so she wants to come back,’’ Tana said.
‘‘There’s been this huge buzz about science and the stars going through the schools. She’s the person who we want our young girls to think, ‘I can be like that’. She’s a role-model.’’
Cagle is a Nasa astronaut and a doctor in medicine, who served with the United States Air Force as a senior flight surgeon before working for the space agency.
Blank is a senior research scientist with Nasa’s AMES Research Centre.
She is also part of the Mars Science Laboratory science team, which involves more than 400 scientists using data from the Curiosity Rover to explore Gale Crater on Mars.
Through his contact with Cagle, Tana got put in touch with a visual arts expert at Weta Work- shop who has offered to visit Porirua schools to reveal some of the magic that goes into film production.
Tana, a former Government senior biosecurity advisor, promised to bring Nasa to Porirua as part of his election campaign last September.
Dr Jennifer Blank, Mayor Mike Tana, Toa Waaka, Dr Yvonne Cagle at Hongoeka Marae. Above, visiting Mana College. Below, Snapchat filters with Dr Cagle.