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Mana College teenager on mission to Mars

Report from RNZ
Rhianne Tarau is gearing up for her final year at Mana College – and it’s shaping up to be a big one. In addition to the 17-year-old’s school work and multiple leadership roles, she’s on a mission to make it to Mars.

Come July, Rhianne will be headed to the US for a space camp based on NASA’s astronaut programme.

She’ll be joining teenagers from around the world for the two-week event, a taster of all things space related, and an opportunity to reach her ultimate goal.

“It would be a great opportunity to be the first Māori woman to go into space, because in New Zealand we don’t really have those opportunities to do that.

“I just want to see it, I want to see it right infront of me. Like I see pictures and I see movies but I just want to see it right in front of me,” she said.

It’s a goal that makes her parents Albie Tarau and Lisa Patterson incredibly proud.

“I think it’ll be absolutely amazing, I mean I would be so proud but at the end of the day it’s what she wants and if there’s a step and it means she can get there and what a wonderful achievement for New Zealand,” Ms Patterson said.

Rhianne is the second youngest of five children and Ms Patterson said her space odyssey began at a young age.

“Every time we would go past any sort of bookstand and anything to do with space would catch her eye. For Christmas or birthdays what she wanted was a telescope or binoculars or something like that so she could look a little bit further.”

She said the space camp was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – and Rhianne’s drive was what would get her there.

“I look at Parris Goebel and I just think what a wonderful woman because of what she’s managed to do, and she just put her head down and she achieved it, yet there was nothing there in the first place.

“Little bit different with the space, not like you can just go outside and build yourself a rocket and say ‘OK Mum I’m off’ … but I can see Rhianne’s got the same thought in terms of being able to get there, and here’s a leg up in terms of being able to get there.”

Rhianne is one of the top students at Mana College – she’s incredibly humble so you wouldn’t hear it from her – but the head of science at the school, Diana Wright, said there was no doubting her capabilities.

“She’s absolutely amazing, she’s one of those students that you just want to clone and have 30 of in your classroom,” she said.

Rhianne was in the top five percent of the country for her Level 1 NCEA results and passed again last year with flying colours.

Miss Wright said she had all the characteristics required to make it to space – and the camp would be an excellent chance for her to see what a space career could involve. “I want her to get the opportunity that I didn’t have when I was younger, you know, when I was younger women didn’t do things like that and there weren’t the opportunities to go to space camps and things like that.”

But the opportunity doesn’t come cheap – there’s an $8000 price tag attached to space camp, and Rhianne has been working hard to raise the cash, with sausage sizzles and a Givealittle page.

While it had been hard work, she said it was well worth it, with family, friends and the community all showing their support.

“One lady said if her daughter gets to my age she wants the same kind of thing for her, so she hopes that supporting me it [will] encourage her daughter to go into space, because she’s real interested in it.”

Rhianne isn’t sure what’s next for her studies and space pursuits – she’s hopeful the camp will help shape her plans. In the meantime she’s determined to get her NCEA Level 3 with Excellence – and beyond that, the sky’s the limit.

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