Discovery astronauts on NZ inner-space mission
16 May 2011
Astronauts who are more used to viewing New Zealand from space will conduct a voyage of discovery with a difference this week when they step onto Kiwi soil as part of an ‘inner space’ mission.
The entire NASA crew from the final journey of the space shuttle ‘Discovery’ is coming to New Zealand on a goodwill and morale building exercise, aimed at supporting the victims of the Christchurch earthquake.
The crew will arrive in Hamilton tomorrow (17.05.11) before travelling on to Christchurch, and finally Auckland, for what is likely to be their last appearance together outside the United States.
Apollo space programme
A full crew of NASA astronauts travelling abroad together is reminiscent of the days of the Apollo programme when crews took on goodwill and morale building missions.
The opportunity to visit New Zealand has come about through space shuttle pilot Eric Boe’s association with a high school classmate now living in Hamilton, who put out a call to the astronauts for help.
Colonel Boe last visited Hamilton in 2009, and took the city’s flag to space with him on the final mission of Discovery in February this year.
The high flying Hamilton flag will be returned to the city during the visit with a ceremony on Tuesday, 17 May.
The shuttle pilot says the visit is important to the crew as they have a number of New Zealand connections.
"We recognise that the people of Christchurch are going through a difficult time now and we’d like to bring a message of hope and optimism to them as they go about rebuilding their lives and their city following the devastating earthquake earlier this year," says Colonel Boe.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the inspirational group of adventurers will keep spirits high and support the people of Christchurch with the self belief needed at this time.
Air New Zealand and a number of Hamilton businesses contributed to the mission to bring the astronauts to New Zealand.
Following their stay in Hamilton, the space crew will travel to Christchurch on Saturday (21.05.11) for public presentations of the final Discovery mission and will visit school children in a number of city and suburban areas.
As well as the serious side to their mission, the astronauts will also take time out for fun - experiencing many of the popular tourist activities and destinations in the Waikato, and Christchurch - Canterbury regions.
They plan to do the Wahinemoe harbour cruise in Raglan, on the west coast within an hour of Hamilton, and will travel to Waitomo for a four-hour trip into the Lost World, followed by lunch at Huhu Café and a Waitomo glow worm vave tour.
The Waitomo experience is a carbon copy of the one American pop star Katy Perry completed recently and raved about on Twitter - recommending it to her seven million followers and telling them how much she loved New Zealand.
In Christchurch the astronauts will visit the International Antarctic Centre, and luxury lodges including Otahuna Lodge and Terrace Downs.
They will end their visit in Auckland with a trip aboard an America’s Cup yacht on Auckland harbour with Sail NZ - one of the ‘city of sails’ most popular activities.
Underground adventures in Waitomo Caves
Hamilton, NZ - events centre
Christchurch, NZ - gateway to the ice
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|The NASA crew of the Discovery shuttle, on an inner-space mission to New Zealand to support Christchurch.
|The Space Shuttle Discovery launches on its final mission with a flag from Hamilton, New Zealand on board.