Maori rocket scientist Mana Vautier told pupils at Carterton School yesterday he is still climbing his way to the stars.

Mr Vautier, 33, was speaking late yesterday morning via Skype from his home in Houston, Texas, to Room 12 pupils at the school.

The digital link aimed to inspire the Year 6 and 7 class to "dream big and dream often", he said, and was part of the Sir Peter Blake Trust campaign this week involving the 300-strong Dream Team, of which he is a member.

Numerous Dream Team members were holding similar online discussions with classrooms across New Zealand to likewise inspire young kiwis to Dare Dream Do, which is the theme of the 2013 Sir Peter Blake Trust Leadership Week.


Mr Vautier, Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Tuhourangi, has lived stateside since 2002 and for several years has worked with an aerospace engineering company contracted to Nasa in Texas.

His mother Hinekaitangi Vautier said yesterday her second son had since the age of three nursed an ambition to visit the stars. "I don't look at him and see an astronaut. I look at him and see my son, who is very down to earth and very focused and clear about what he wants."

Mrs Vautier was proud he had yesterday shared his dreams and ambitions with pupils at Carterton School, of which his grandmother Te Awhi Matae-Hadfield was an old girl.

Mr Vautier, in a question and answer format, told Room 12 pupils yesterday he had pinpointed five attributes of sound leadership - integrity, faith, confidence, priorities, and perseverance - from a shortlist of a dozen personal qualities.

The fourth generation Latter Day Saint said his wife Annette, and their three sons and one daughter, comprise his greatest dream to be a successful husband and father, while his ambition remains undiminished to be the first Maori in outer space.

He said the head of the astronaut selection committee had repeatedly stressed the value of "being a people person" who had operational experience and the ability "to fix things and make things".

"You need to do what you enjoy doing and not focus on fulfilling a set of requirements on a checklist, so to speak. I have a job I'm enjoying and next time Nasa is looking for astronauts I'll apply and see where it goes from there.

"The last go around they had over 6000 people apply and only eight people selected. It's very competitive, so I'll just keep sending in my applications."


Mr Vautier said private companies held significant promise for the immediate future of spaceflight after the completion of the original space shuttle programme and the canning of the Constellation Programme.

"There are numerous private companies that are working very hard to privatise the space sector and personally I think that is very exciting and I see a lot of success going to those companies.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them progress."

He would like to eventually return to New Zealand, he said, so his children can experience the country he is proud to call home.

But for now he has his family around him and he is right where he needs to be, he said.

"There's a lot of different space centres all around the world that focus on satellites and robots but Houston is where the astronauts live and where the astronauts train. It's where the spacecraft are developed that the astronauts fly. For me Houston, Texas, is the heart of human space flight."