- Published on Thursday, 27 February 2014 09:12
FACED with a school project on space, Lucas Whiteley boldly went where few four-year-olds have gone before . . . and asked the big boys at NASA for help.
With a little help from his dad, the primary school pupil sent a video of himself asking three questions to the US space agency’s website.
To his delight, Lucas received an email with a ten-minute video made for him by research engineer Ted Garbeff of NASA’s Ames Research Center.
Lucas’s father James Whiteley, 37, an app designer, said: ‘When I was a kid I wrote to NASA and got a brochure, so I thought we might be lucky if we sent a video of Lucas asking questions.
‘What we got back three weeks later was amazing. Obviously Ted has thought about his audience and gone to a lot of trouble just for them.
‘When I sat down to watch it with Lucas he had a big smile on his face.
‘Ted is a fantastic bloke to go out of his way for someone he doesn’t know on the other side of the world.’
And the big questions?
First of all, Lucas asked: ‘How many stars are there?’
Mr Garbeff said no one has counted, but scientists estimate that there are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
Next, Lucas wanted to know ‘who came second and third in the race to the moon’. Mr Garbeff said he would place Russia second, and China third – although only the US has put a man on the moon.
Finally, Lucas asked if any animals have been sent to the moon. They haven’t – but several have gone to space, Mr Garbeff said. He also explained that his work involves studying planes and rockets and ‘figuring out how things work’.
Thanking Lucas for his ‘great’ questions, he added: ‘It’s really a lot of fun being an engineer – you get to play with great toys all day and most importantly you get to learn about the world.
‘It wasn’t easy, though, getting here, I had to work really hard. So remember to work hard in school and listen to your teacher.’
He urged Lucas to work together with his class to solve problems, and signed off: ‘So hopefully one of these days I’ll see you all – maybe up in space.’