Sam Leske is a passionate astronomer and entrepreneur, he has been fascinated by the celestial wonders since childhood, with memories of witnessing Halley’s Comet igniting a lifelong love for the stars. This early interest, as well as a passion for aviation, laid the foundation for a successful 24-year career in the Air Force, where Sam served as both a pilot, intelligence officer, and commanded a military deployment in Timor Leste. Following his military career, Sam was successfully appointed to a senior role in Biosecurity New Zealand where he ran various biosecurity responses, intelligence functions and other operational activities. During this time he was also the President of the New Zealand Institute of Intelligence Professionals.
In 2019, Sam and his partner, Hari, established a stargazing business that has since become an important component of Wairarapa’s tourism infrastructure. This innovative venture also focuses on providing space science education and professional learning development in schools. Sam and Hari have traveled extensively across New Zealand, visiting over 70 schools and introducing 16,000 people to the wonders of the cosmos through their portable planetarium and space science programme.
During the recent Christmas holidays, Sam and Hari established the Wairarapa Space Science Centre for 45 days, drawing in 3,300 visitors. This achievement coincided with Wairarapa’s accreditation as a dark sky reserve, highlighting Sam’s commitment to fostering a love for astronomy and preserving the pristine night skies for generations to come.
Sam has spent thousands of hours out in the cold and dark learning the night sky and operating a variety of telescopes in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. He is an accomplished astrophotographer with his work published in BBC’s Sky at Night magazine and also in Astronomy Now. It’s this hands on knowledge of astronomy and the night sky combined with his array of experiences and awareness of the space industry that drives him to communicate space science.