Seventeen-year-old Laird Kruger has his eyes on the skies.

He also has his eyes on Rocket Lab's development of New Zealand's first orbital launch site at Onenui Station on Mahia Peninsula.

"It's pretty cool, I've heard a bit about the possibility of the manufacturing facility being set up here also - with Wairoa making a bid for it. That would be perfect, a really positive thing for those of us keen to work in physics or engineering."

Kruger is a Year 13 student at Napier Boys' High School. He is also one of five New Zealand students selected by the Royal Society of New Zealand to attend the USA Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, early next month. The group will also visit the Houston Space Centre.


Kruger, a keen physics student, was one of 200 applicants for the hotly contested five places at the International Space Camp (ISC).

"I hadn't heard of Space Camp or the Royal Society until our Earth and Space teacher Gary Sparks told me about them," he admits. But he was quick to apply.

"It was very competitive.

"I put together a CV, references and a cover letter and then waited. About a month later I had an email to say I'd been accepted."

The camp begins on July 8 and over two weeks Kruger and his fellow Kiwis will join educators and students from 35 countries learning the physics of space, aerodynamics and elements of hands-on astronaut training.

"We will design and build rockets and shield systems.

"There is also a scuba aspect because that emulates micro-gravity and there are jet flight simulations."

Kruger says despite all the exciting events and experiences the camp offers, the highlight for him will be meeting the other students.

"I am looking forward to meeting like-minded people. Physics and astronomy and space, it's a lonely passion. The Astronomy Society here in Hawke's Bay is great but they are mostly adults ... most teens in the Bay are more into sport than science."

Kruger hopes the experience will give him a nudge in the direction he will take when he starts his university studies next year.

"I'm currently juggling ideas of physics and engineering. I can't decide. After this I should have a better idea."

Andrew Cleland, chief executive of the Royal Society of New Zealand, says the students will be immersed in a programme promoting space science and exploration and they will be challenged both academically and physically through extended-duration missions, learning about the mental, emotional and physical demands astronauts must face.

The Talented School Students Travel Award, managed by the Royal Society of New Zealand and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, funds 70 per cent of each student's travel and registration costs.

Space Camp ® launched in 1982 to inspire and motivate young people from around the country to join the ranks of space pioneers who persevere to push the boundaries of human exploration. Today, with attendees from all 50 states, territories and more than 60 foreign countries, the immersive programme continues to challenge young people to dream of a future in space. With the US Space & Rocket Center® as home base, trainees have an unparalleled environment to spur imagination.

The International Space Camp's extensive hall of fame includes:
Jason Hopkins, who has worked on satellite systems for Lockheed Martin and on NASA's Orion spacecraft. He has managed the daily operations of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center and served as a NASA Fellow advising US Senator Bill Nelson as chairman of the Senate's Science and Space Subcommittee. Hopkins is now helping to develop a reusable launch craft for Masten Space Systems.

George Whitesides, who became the executive director of the National Space Society before serving as Chief of Staff for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. He is now the CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, working with Sir Richard Branson on the development of commercial spaceflight vehicles. It's on one of those crafts that Whitesides plans to make his first flight into space soon.