NASA scientist visits Victor Harbor High School

MORE TO EARTH: Victor Harbor High School students Kira Bygrave, Cooper Oborn, Joel Harris and Caitlin Marston with Dr Randii Wessen (centre) at the school.
MORE TO EARTH: Victor Harbor High School students Kira Bygrave, Cooper Oborn, Joel Harris and Caitlin Marston with Dr Randii Wessen (centre) at the school.

VICTOR HARBOR – NASA scientist Dr Randii Wessen visited Victor Harbor High School (VHHS), on August 17 and captivated students with a talk on extraterrestrial topics.

Dr Wessen is an American Astronautics Systems Engineer involved in planetary exploration. He works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

His talk included the search for ‘Terra Nova’, the search for an Earth-like planet outside of the Solar System.

Students asked questions on black holes and exploring the ocean of Eoropa (Moon of Jupiter) and Pluto, impressing Dr Wessen with their responses.

“The kids were bright, articulate and asked questions,” Dr Wessen said. “You just want to spark interest and I received that here at Victor Harbor High.”

VHHS student Joel Harris said the visit by Dr Wessen was eye opening.

“It gave us an insight on what the world is going to be like into the future and how technology will take over,” Joel said. “It was good to learn something outside the school curriculum.”

Student Cooper Oborn said it was exciting to hear from a NASA scientist like Dr Wessen.

“It is incredible to think about how big the planets and the universe is,” Cooper said. “It was really interesting hearing from someone so qualified from NASA and had such training and experience.”

Dr Wessen’s visit to VHHS fits in with the school’s focus on STEM, the name given to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (incorporating physics and chemistry).

VHHS received $2.5million for its STEM facilities, which will prepare students for future jobs in a wide range of industries from health to defence. The build will be completed by December 2018.

Dr Wessen has had an exciting career, working on some of the biggest inter-planetary missions in the last two decades.

Previously, Dr Wessen was the telecommunications and mission systems manager for the Mars Program, the supervisor for the Science System Engineering Group, manager of the Cassini Science Planning and Operations Element, the Galileo deputy sequence team chief, and the Voyager Science Sequence coordinator for the Uranus and Neptune encounters.

Dr Wessen has co-authored two books, was the recipient of NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal for his contributions to the Voyager 2 Neptune Encounter and has 11 NASA Group Achievement Awards. He is a fellow of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Interplanetary Society and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Asteroid 31664 (Randiiwessen) is named in his honour.