Four of New Zealand's shining stars of science will be rocketing to Silicon Valley next month for a 10-week internship with Nasa.
University students Rosemary Swears, Steven McCabe , Andrew Alder and Hammond Pearce each vied for – and won – their spot in the programme thanks to the New Zealand Space Scholarship (NZSS).
The scholarships, managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), were announced at the Beehive on Monday evening.
Pearce spoke on behalf of his fellow space scholars at the low-key event that included Economic Development Minister David Parker and US Ambassador Scott Brown.
He said lots of people dreamed of working with Nasa, and he was one of them.
"Everyone who works within STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] – and even outside of STEM – has a want to do something space-related. Space is cool, space is fascinating."
Working with Nasa was something he had "always" wanted to do.
Fellow space scholar Rosemary Swears said she had been in a laboratory when she had found out she was a part of the programme and had to contain her excitement to avoid spilling chemicals.
"I was expecting this year to be a dry run and maybe I would get it next year. This was not the plan, this is beyond amazing."
Economic Development Minister David Parker said the standard of applications demonstrated the "high quality" of New Zealand's tertiary education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
"The primary goals of the NZ 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."
NZSS recipients are able to participate in NASA's International Internships Programme as a result of a contractual agreement between MBIE and Nasa.
Swears, McCabe, Alder and Pearce were selected by both organisations from a broad pool of national and international applicants.
The scholarships cover the cost of the internship, including airfares to the United States, accommodation and living expenses.
The 2019 Space Scholarships are part of a pilot programme, and an assessment will be made at the end of the year as to whether to continue them.