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NASA Helps 4-Year-Old Boy From Yorkshire With His Homework

4-year-old Lucas Whiteley, from Yorkshire recently posted a video addressed to NASA, asking for help with his homework. The short video contained three questions that Lucas needed help with. Lucas’s father helped him film the video which they uploaded onto the NASA site.

Lucas and his father were over the moon when NASA engineer Ted Garbeff uploaded a 10-minute video response. The video included not just the answers to Lucas’s questions, but also a short tour of Ted’s Mountain View base in California. Mr. Garbeff is an expert in experimental fluid physics who studies the debris left over from space capsules. In the video, he explains in simple but effective terms how many stars there are, who the second and third astronauts sent into space were and whether or not any animals had been sent up there.

To explain the first question, Mr. Garbeff likens the stars to the number of grains of sand on the beach—far too many to count and definitely far more than we can account for from first-hand experience. He then went on to explain that the United States was the only country to land a man on the moon but that China and Russia had sent rovers there beforehand. Answering the boy’s third question, he explains that the first living thing on the moon was, in fact an animal—a Russian dog named Laika.

Lucas’s father James Whiteley, 37, said that he helped his son post up that video as a result of a rather disappointing childhood experience. When he was a young boy, he wrote to NASA and all he got in response was a brochure. With the advent of interactive media, he felt that his son might be able to get the informative response he hadn’t been able to attain in his youth if they filmed a video instead of writing to the organization.

Mr. Whiteley says that he is very grateful to Mr. Garbeff for helping his son out. He also adds that the video was excellently made because Mr. Garbeff really took his audience into account—he explained things in a way that was understandable but which didn’t water down any information. Furthermore, he says that he is pleased at how this would encourage kids to learn more about science and space travel; he says it’s good to keep children curious. He adds that it was extremely rewarding to see his son so happy about the video.

In response to this, Mr. Garbeff said that it was a pleasure making the video—he says that his job at NASA was a result of a lot of hard work and an intense interest in space so he is always happy to help anyone who shares the same love for the mystery that is outer space. He also agrees with  Mr. Whiteley’s attitude toward children: it’s good to nourish the thirst for knowledge.

Lucas presented the video at an assembly in his primary school, Sunny Hill Primary in Wrenthrope, West Yorks.

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