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Scholarships propel Kiwi students to NASA


Te Whanganui-a-Tara – The government is investing in New Zealand’s burgeoning space industry and today announced five scholarships for Kiwi students to undertake internships at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

Michaela Dobson (University of Auckland), Leah Albrow (University of Canterbury) and Jack Naish, Celine Jane and Daniel Wrench, all from Victoria University of Wellington are the being supported to go to NASA.

“Our space industry will be shaped by the next generation which is why it gives me great pleasure to announce this group of young Kiwi students selected under NASA JPL’s visiting student research programme,” economic development minister Stuart Nash said.

“After two years of online internships, this cohort is the first to intern at the JPL campus in Pasadena, California, a place of great significance to New Zealand.

“Kiwi-born aerospace engineer and scientist Sir William Pickering served 22 years as director of NASA JPL. He led the successful effort to place the first US satellite Explorer 1 into Earth’s orbit and I am proud to see his vision and passion live on in young Kiwis today.”

A ceremony  at the Beehive today coincided with the visit of NASA administrator Bill Nelson and deputy administrator Pam Melroy who are touring New Zealand and meeting with the New Zealand space agency.

“It is an honour to welcome NASA’s leadership to our shores to see first-hand this country’s innovative and thriving space sector,” Nash said.

The five student interns were selected, by the New Zealand Space Agency and NASA JPL, from a pool of applicants studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects at post-graduate level.

Each will spend approximately 16 weeks at NASA’s JPL working alongside a NASA mentor on projects ranging from the search for ancient microbial life on Mars to development of control algorithms for a snake-like, self-propelled robot designed to explore Saturn’s sixth largest moon. The first students will travel to NASA to begin their internships later this month.

Four of the five scholarships are funded by government, and each covers the full costs of the internship, including airfares to the United States, accommodation, living expenses and visa-related fees.

The fifth scholarship, known as the Willoughby Fellowship is privately funded.