Published On: August 21, 2017

A Girl’s Dream of Outer Space

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Eleven-year-old Anna Paulla Kelly Moura is sure that one day someone from her neighborhood will go into space. “One day,” she says. Anna Paulla lives in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro.

Given that Anna Paulla’s curiosity brought her to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she drove a truck-sized exploration vehicle through a simulated Martian crater and tried on an astronaut’s helmet, that ‘one day’ person from Rocinha could be she.

Anna Paulla’s NASA adventure began when she turned in a school essay brimming with questions about space exploration. The school text caught the eye of Brazilian TV host Luciano Huck, and he offered to bring Anna Paulla to visit the US space agency.

Anna Paulla at NASA

Anna Paulla at NASA

NASA’s chief astronaut, Chris Cassidy, who agreed to host her for a day at NASA’s Houston facilities, quickly recognized and appreciated Anna’s inquisitiveness. “Can you communicate with your family from space?” she asked Cassidy. He assured her that astronauts spend part of each day sending and reading e-mails, just like people on Earth. He told her astronauts also have once-a-week video calls with their loved ones.

“What must one do to become an astronaut?” Anna also wanted to know. Cassidy admitted to Anna that NASA rejected his first application to become an astronaut. But he persevered, and after two years of training, he was accepted. He flew on the Space Shuttle and worked at the International Space Station. Cassidy shared tips with Anna for becoming an astronaut. There’s no single path, he said, but he recommended sticking with science studies.

Anna Paulla also had questions about food. What do astronauts eat? For his answer, Cassidy let her sample some of the food astronauts eat in space.


Anna Paulla with NASA’s chief astronaut Chris Cassidy and Luciano Huck (Credit: Globo)

Anna Paulla with NASA’s chief astronaut Chris Cassidy and Luciano Huck (Credit: Globo)


Anna also got to try on a spacesuit at the vast, underwater Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, where astronauts-in-training simulate weightlessness. And she visited the computer screens shining in NASA’s famous Mission Control Center, where NASA engineers helped put an American on the moon almost 50 years ago.

Anna Paulla said her day at NASA was full of new knowledge, just like going to school. “If one day I go into space, surely I will walk on the moon,” she said.

[The article appeared originally on the ShareAmerica website in slightly different form.]


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