An 18-year-old Auckland girl has been chosen by space agency NASA to ride on-board their 747 jumbo jet aircraft during a special overnight mission.

In one 10 hour flight, Alexia Hilbertidou will travel at -70C and zero per cent humidity while measuring Stardust and taking in the breath-taking displays of the atmosphere, which in previous excursions has included the Aurora Australis.

"I was ecstatic and over the moon to be picked," she told Daily Mail Australia.

As the youngest person ever to be selected, she will attend as a guest of NASA's SOFIA Project while crew seek out new stars and planets, reports Daily Mail.


NASA's SOFIA is the world's largest flying observatory based out of California and the Boeing 747SP jetliner is modified to carry one of the most powerful telescopes in the world with a 100-inch diameter.

The data provided by SOFIA 'cannot be obtained by any other astronomical facility on the ground or in space'.

The "VIP Mission" is specifically designed for scientific communicators. Past passengers on similar VIP missions have included Dr Michelle Dickinson and Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols.

As the founder of GirlBoss New Zealand, an organisation built to encourage females to embrace male-dominated fields, Hilbertidou was selected by the United States Ambassador-Designate Scott Brown in part because of the advocacy work she does in the scientific sphere.

Her company is New Zealand's second largest women's network with 8000 members passionate about STEM, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship.

In 2016 she was named the most influential New Zealand woman under 25 at the Westpac Women of Influence Awards.

The flight will leave from Christchurch airport the night of Friday 14 July and will take approximately 10 hours while travelling at 45,000 ft towards Antarctica over the Southern Ocean.

At maximum altitude, the rear of the airplane opens to allow for scientific observations.
On the trip NASA will organise opportunities for guests to talk to scientists at the various workstations including the Mission Director, science flight planner, telescope operator, science staff and flight crew.