NASA inspires Porirua at a Meet the NASA Stars event

NASA Astronaut, Dr Yvonne Cagle, and NASA Scientist Dr Jen Blank speaking at Meet NASA Stars

Last year mayoral hopeful Mike Tana launched a bold campaign promise to go where no Porirua mayor had gone before. He wanted to bring the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to Porirua.

Once becoming mayor, Mike Tana stuck to his campaign promise and announced NASA were coming to Porirua. The tickets were free and included a screening of the movie Hidden Figures.

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The Event

Porirua City Council decorated the Te Rauparaha Arena gym with a wormhole entrance, planets and a flying astronaut. The stage was adorned with space rocks, a space suit and rockets. Two large screens sat on either side.

Meet NASA Stars in Porirua

The event started with welcomes from the mayor and deputy mayor, Mike Tana and Izzy Ford. Dr Yvonne Cagle (astronaut) & Dr Jen Blank (Scientist) were then introduced and they talked briefly about who they were and what they did before taking their seats to watch Hidden Figures.

After the movie the NASA stars took the stage once again to talk a bit about what they do and how to get into working in the space industry. Dr Cagle talked about knowing Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA employees the movie is based on and how she always wanted to be an astronaut.

NASA Astronaut, Dr Yvonne Cagle, and NASA Scientist Dr Jen Blank speaking at Meet NASA Stars
NASA Astronaut, Dr Yvonne Cagle, and NASA Scientist Dr Jen Blank speaking at Meet NASA Stars

Question & Answers

Before finishing the event, Cagle and Blank opened the floor for a Question and Answer session that lasted over 40 minutes, well past the event’s scheduled end time. More often than not, Q&A sessions last about 10 minutes and answers are short and concise. Cagle and Blank impressed me with the detail and explanation they gave in their answers.

To finish, Mike and Izzy spoke about how wonderful it was having NASA in Porirua. Then a local Porirua student who is off to Space Camp took the stage and thanked NASA for coming.

For a bit of fun, Mike pretended to struggle to lift one of the fake space rocks claiming it was for the kids benefit. There was a chance to meet the NASA stars in person after the event had finished.

Porirua’s Space Future

Meet NASA Stars was a great first event for Porirua to host a public space talk. Hopefully Porirua can build on this visit with more events and more thought put into ‘Porirua’s space activities’ and how we can inspire people to take a more practical interest in space. Space is a fascinating subject that I absolutely love. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where NASA rockets launch from and it was a highlight of that trip. It was great to have NASA visit Porirua and share their knowledge and experience.

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