Each year in Wellington there’s a Space and Science Festival which is a great opportunity to showcase the latest in what’s happening in space to the public. Onslow College hosts the Festival each year and this year the events are spread over a couple of weekends and includes talks, displays, telescope viewing and a bunch of science related activities. Last year the Festival got 10,000 visitors. Of course, this is something that Milky-Way.Kiwi could not miss so we bundled ourselves into the Johnsonville Line train and headed up the Ngaio Gorge to Onslow. On the way there we could not help but notice Venus setting and Jupiter rising, which was a fantastic setting for the evening – of which I took a bad iPhone snap of (in fact all the images in this article are my bad iPhone snaps, except one).
The highlight of the Festival for us were the talks by Dr Jen Blank and Dr Yvonne Cagle, both from NASA and both doing amazing things. Other talks were from Rocket Lab and Massey University. There was also a panel so the audience had plenty of opportunities to ask questions and all speakers made themselves available outside the venue so everyone got a great chance to grab posters and stickers and have a chat with the speakers. Dr Blank’s presentation was all about what was happening with Curiosity on Mars. Her role is to plan part of the science mission that specifically uses a laser to understand the composition of rocks and material that the rover gets close to. It was a fascinating talk that held the audience spell bound with plenty of engaging questions. It’s amazing just how long the rover has been there and how much of the Martian terrain it has traversed. Though it’s important to remember that it travels very very slowly so has only gone about 19km since it’s mission began.
The next talk was by NASA Astronaut, Dr Yvonne Cagle. Dr Cagle has had an amazing career in the United States Air Force and as an astronaut and she gave a fantastc talk about what inspired her to want to be an astronaut and some of her experiences at NASA. It was a really special opportunity to have her speak to the Festival and it gave the younger members the once in a lifetime opportunity to ask her questions and get some insight as to what it is like to be an astronaut.
Some of the other displays included bioluminescence bacteria, robotics, Space Place and 3D printing. One of the highlights for many during the evening was being able to look through the telescopes from the Wellington Astronomical Society. I got to have a quick look at Saturn and Jupiter and I’m sure many others would have seen these jewels of the night sky for the first time last night. It was a great night and great to see so many people visiting. The Festival is also on next weekend during Saturday afternoon and you can find out more from their website.