As a young lad growing up in Kerikeri Hammond Pearce was just like many of his peers and dreamed about one day going into space.
He didn't think that was possible as you had to be a United States citizen to go into space on a US rocket.
But now Pearce is getting the next best thing after being accepted as one of four Kiwis to go on a 10-week Nasa International Internship Programme after being awarded New Zealand Space Scholarships.
Pearce is the only Northlander in the four and is completing his PhD in computer systems engineering at the University of Auckland. His research focuses on safety-critical computer controlled mechanical systems. At Nasa Hammond will be working on a new type of neural network for controlling robotics.
He said he almost stumbled across the internships by accident and knew of several other people from the university who had applied that he felt had great chances of getting in.
Pearce said growing up in Kerikeri, like many young boys, he dreamed of going into space with Nasa, but felt that would be beyond him as he was not a US citizen.
''It sort of steered me into technology and science, so I'd say that was a starting point, using science and technology. Then I heard an email was going around (Auckland University) calling for people to apply (for the internships). Somebody forwarded it to me and a colleague said I should apply,'' Pearce said.
''I though 'oh yeah', and thought it was a bit of a moonshot call if I got in, so I was surprised, but very honoured when I did.''
He felt what set him apart was that he has done a fair amount of public speaking and drama and he had been told he interviewed well.
''It's not just about working at Nasa but also being able to relate the experience and they want you to be a bit of an ambassador too and I'm more than happy to stand up in front of crowds and do some public speaking. That may have helped.''
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He leaves on June 1 for the 10-week internship and is delighted it's for such a long time.
''I've done other internships of a few weeks and really 10 weeks is a good long time to really make a difference and get achieve something that will help in space,'' Pearce said.
"I'm really looking forward to it.''
And now he's going to work with Nasa for 10 weeks he's still hoping that one day he might get into space too.
The New Zealand Space Scholarships cover specified costs relating to the internship at Nasa, including return economy airfares to United States; Nasa administration fee; accommodation; stipend (to cover food, travel and other related expenses); visa-related fees; medical and travel insurance.
The other three who received the award at a ceremony in the Beehive were selected from a pool of over 200 applicants, Rosemary Swears (University of Waikato), Steven McCabe (University of Waikato), and Andrew Alder (University of Boulder, Colorado, previously University of Auckland).
"The standard of applications demonstrates the high quality of New Zealand's tertiary education and the way we prepare students to achieve at the highest level in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Economic Development Minister David Parker said.
"The primary goals of the New Zealand Space Scholarship are to support our high-achieving students in space-related activities, build capability in New Zealand's space economy and strengthen our connection to the global space network."
The internships will see students based at the Nasa Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.
New Zealand Space Scholarship recipients are able to participate in Nasa's International Internships Programme as a result of a contractual agreement between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Nasa. Candidates were selected by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and then secondly by Nasa from a broader pool of international applicants.
More information on the 2019 NZ Space Scholarship recipients and the scholarships are at the New Zealand Space Agency's website www.mbie.govt.nz/space.