Lucas-Whiteley_2835601cby Lisa M.A. Winters

Four-year-old Lucas Whiteley of Sunny Hill Primary in Wrenthorpe, West Yorkshire, England, wrote to NASA asking for help on a school project and became the star of his class when the space agency replied.  When his father helped him post three questions to NASA’s website, all they expected was based on James Whiteley’s own experience of of writing to the American space agency and receiving an informative brochure.

Instead, the little boy was sent a an email and 10-minute film from the space agency’s experimental fluid physics engineer Ted Garbeff, which included a virtual tour of his Mountain View base in California. Both Whiteleys, and Lucas’s class, proved very appreciative.  James told The Telegraph newspaper, ‘Ted is a fantastic bloke to go out of his way to do something for someone he doesn’t know on the other side of the world.”

Whiteley’s questions and Garbeff’s answers:

Q: How many stars are there?
A: You might see a lot of stars, but the truth is there are more stars than you can even see. There are so many stars that it’s really hard to imagine how many there are. So we haven’t counted every single star in the universe, that would take a really long time. But instead engineers and scientists are really good at estimating really large numbers.

Q: Who came second and third in the race to the moon?
A: The U.S. did land the first people on the moon and in fact no other country has made it back to the moon. But Russia did manage to land a rover on the moon to drive around. So I guess I would probably give Russia second place. Very recently, a country called China has landed a rover on the moon, so China would have third place.

Q: Did any animals go to the moon?
A: No. But animals have really helped us understand the way space works and how well humans can live in space. In fact one of the first living things to go into space was a Russian dog named Laika. Laika is now very much a space hero. She was the first living thing to go into space. NASA also launched animals into space (including) the first primate, a chimpanzee named Ham. But none of them made it to the moon, they orbited around the Earth.

Garbeff encouraged Lucas’s class to pay close attention to their teachers and added, “I’m always happy to talk about NASA.”


Lisa M.A. Winters
Lisa M.A. Winters