Indigenous | NASA

Ngāpuhi descendant flying off to NASA

A Māori man has found a place on the final frontier, landing a NASA internship with five other New Zealanders.

The Ngāpuhi descendant is excited to take on the three-month internship but has a lot waiting for him on his return home.

Axl Rogers was awarded the New Zealand Space sScholarship and is making his way next month to the world’s biggest space agency.

Rogers says it was a feeling he had to keep ‘under wraps’ but still can’t quite shake.

“I’m feeling ecstatic. It’s just an unreal thing that’s going to happen. To me it has always been an impossible dream and now it’s a reality. It’s unfathomable, it’s real, it’s happening,” he says.

Rogers is a radio astronomer and engineer at the Warkworth Space Centre in Auckland, while also completing his PhD in astrophysics at AUT.

He says his dream has finally become a reality, since his childhood alongside his nan.

“It was one of those things that you kind of dreamt about, but it felt unreal, like it will never happen at the time. But, sitting there with my nana, looking at the stars I already felt like I was among them. Now to be going to NASA and living this great dream it feels like something else.”

Next month this new father of one will fly to Pasadena California for an internship at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

He will spend three months there and is hoping to show how Māori observe the stars.

“Maybe I can put together a presentation for them showing them a bit of what we look at in the southern hemisphere.Obviously they’re in the North, they’ll be looking at a different set of stars. But, we can give them a bit of history about New Zealand, the Māori culture and what it means to us, Matariki.”

He also says Māori should look into entering this profession, which has long stood as a beacon in Māori knowledge.

“There is no reason why Māori shouldn’t. It’s our history, it’s our culture. We were bought up and raised with this huge depth of knowledge that comes from astronomy and it’s deeply rooted in us. So we should have a connection to it, to understand who we are and where we come from.”

Upon his return, Rogers wants to help build astronomy in Aotearoa.

“The first thing I want to do when I come back is finish my PhD, so that makes me Dr Axl, and then here at the Warkworth Space Centre we would like to turn this big beautiful 30m dish into a deep space support station to help build the New Zealand Space economy sector up. Bring more jobs, bring more money into the country and also support space missions. We’re fourth in the world in terms of the number of spacecrafts launched into space, let’s support that. So we can make sure the spacecrafts we’re sending are safe, happy, healthy and doing the things that we expect them to do.”