Local teenagers Stephanie Harris and Natasha Jones can boast specialist training that few other people in the Southern Riverina, or even Australia, have experienced.
Both are recent graduates of the NASA Space Camp held in the United States of America.
Stephanie and Natasha, from Jerilderie and Berrigan respectively, took part in the program which introduced them to the wonders of astro-physics and science after a self-application process.
They were each encouraged by their teachers at Finley High School, where Stephanie completed Year 12 in 2018 and Natasha Year 10.
Other Australian participants in the program were mainly from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and larger regional centres, with the local girls believed to be the only participants from a small country town.
The first week of the tour was spent visiting museums and educational facilities in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
The second week was spent at Space Camp, which is part of the Space & Rocket Centre, Alabama.
Activities included a variety of astronaut training exercises and engineering challenges.
Stephanie said it was ‘‘education heavy’’ but ‘‘totally worth it’’.
‘‘We visited three space shuttles, scuba dived under water to simulate anti gravity, designed our own rockets and even tried out the G-force simulator.
‘‘What I was able to take away is the wide variety of career options available in astro physics.
‘‘Some might think it’s closed off but if you’re passionate you can find your way into the field.
‘‘We as a group all supported each other and really gelled,’’ Stephanie said.
Natasha said she was able to develop a greater passion for space by participating.
‘‘I’ve always had an interest in space and the history of NASA, the progress they’ve made and how much exploration they still have to do,’’ she said.
‘‘I’m more into biology and chemistry but it does to some degree apply with what we learnt and I still had a great time.’’
The trip was not all educational based, with the girls also enjoying visits to Universal Studios and Disneyland while in America.
~ with Judy Ryan