A Napier teenager has touched back down on earth after a trip to outer space - a simulated expedition to space, that is.

Laird Kruger, 17, said he had always been interested in space but really got into science when he went to Napier Boys' High School. He joined Hawke's Bay Astronomy Society and decided to apply for the Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.

"Somehow I got in," he said.

He travelled with four other New Zealanders from around the country.


"It's a bit of a different place over in the States."

The keen physicist was involved in the Advanced Space Academy programme, specifically designed for trainees who have a particular interest in space exploration.

The week-long educational programme promoted science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as training students and adults with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and problem solving.

Laird spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated space mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Once aboard the ISS, the crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity, or spacewalk.

The high school student had the role of monitoring oxygen levels and communicating with people outside the ISS who were fixing equipment. The crew managed to return to earth in time to graduate with honours.

One of the highlights of his trip was learning about different telescopes that are to be completed by 2018.

After the week-long camp, which he attended with students from about 25 other countries, Laird visited the Museum of Natural Science in Houston. Right up there on his list of highlights was visiting the Nasa Space Centre.

Now into his final year of school he is looking to attend the University of Canterbury to study a Bachelor of Science, majoring in physics.

"I don't know what I want to be but I guess I'll start there."

He extended his gratitude to the Royal Society of New Zealand for funding 70 per cent of his trip.

Space Camp operates year-round and uses astronaut training techniques to engage trainees in real-world applications. Students sleep in quarters designed to resemble the ISS and train in simulators like those used by Nasa.

ore than 750,000 trainees have graduated from Space Camp since its began in Alabama in 1982.

- See www.spacecamp.com for more information.