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.

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