NASA writes back to 4-year-old, answers his questions on science

Lucas Whiteley had asked for help with science homework, and NASA engineer Ted Garbeff sent back 10-minute personalised video, also gave him virtual tour of their California base

Faced with a school project on space, Lucas Whiteley boldly went where few four-year-olds have gone before, and asked the big boys at NASA for help. With a little help from his dad, the primary school pupil sent a video of himself asking three questions to the US space agency’s website.

Four-year-old Lucas Whiteley
Four-year-old Lucas Whiteley

With love from NASA
To his delight, Lucas received an email with a ten-minute video made for him by research engineer Ted Garbeff of NASA’s Ames Research Centre. Garbeff, whose work in experimental fluid physics includes studying the wake of space capsules, answered the questions and gave a virtual tour of the base in Mountain View, California.

Grateful dad
Lucas’s father James Whiteley (37), an app designer, said, “When I was a kid I wrote to NASA and got a brochure, so I thought we might be lucky if we sent a video of Lucas asking questions.

What we got back three weeks later was amazing. Obviously Ted has thought about his audience and gone to a lot of trouble just for them. When I sat down to watch it with Lucas he had a big smile on his face.”

He added: “It’s really a lot of fun being an engineer you get to play with great toys all day and most importantly you get to learn about the world. It wasn’t easy, though, getting here, I had to work really hard. So remember to work hard in school and listen to your teacher.”

The big questions

Q: How many stars are there?
Garbeff said no one has counted, but scientists estimate that there are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Q: Who came second and third in the race to the moon?
I would probably give Russia second place. Very recently a country called China has landed a rover on the moon, so China would have third place.

Q: Did any animals go to the moon?
No. But animals have really helped us understand how space works. In fact one of the first living things to go into space was a dog called Laika.

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