Belle Li, our Grade 6 student of CAIS, was one of the eight Junior Astronauts who attended 2017 U.S. Space Camp Program at NASA.
CAISPA have cordially invited Raymond Li, Belle’s father who also accompanied Belle to visit NASA, to share with us how to support his daughter to make her dreams come true. Here is the conversation between CAISPA (represented by Teresa) and Raymond Li:
Teresa: Congratulations Raymond and welcome back! It was not easy to be selected as one of the eight Astronauts among thousands of students in Hong Kong. Can you share with us what made Belle successful in the application?
Raymond: Belle loves reading, science and astronomy is one of her favorite subjects. She initiated to apply for this Junior Astronauts Programme after reading an article about the Programme from a Children’s Science Magazine last year. Apart from her passion for astronomy, I think the study in CAIS has helped Belle to build up a solid foundation in terms of researching strategy, presentation skills as well as perseverance in difficult situations. Her sound knowledge of space and confidence in presentation impressed the judges. Most importantly, she knows she could be strong and calm through prayers.
Teresa: Can you briefly let us know what the requirements are and what Belle did in the selection process?
Raymond: According to MassMutual’s requirements, the applicant must be aged between 7 – 11 years old, be physically fit and out-going, have good Chinese and English communication skills, be self-confident, and possess perseverance and an inquisitive mind. For the 1st Round Recruitment, Belle wrote a story about some high-tech inventions for the journey to Trappist-1 and attended an interview on the recruitment day. 50 applicants out of some two thousands were selected for the next round.
The 50 successful candidates together with an accompanying parent would be required to attend a Two-day One-night Training Camp with lectures from the assistant curator of the Hong Kong Space Museum and training from the Outward Bound.
For the 2nd Round Competition, it involved a physical challenge, space knowledge competition, and presentation in both Chinese and English. 20 candidates would be selected for the final individual interview in front of a panel of 4 judges and answered questions in both Chinese and English. Finally, 8 candidates were selected for the Junior Astronauts Program.
Teresa: What were the challenges that Belle encountered, and how did she overcome?
Raymond: The judges of the final interview were celebrities from all walks of life. They had high expectations towards the candidates. The questions from Ms. Chea Shuk Mui (a media veteran) and Mr. Leung Wai Ming (the Curator of the Hong Kong Space Museum) were challenging. For example, what you would do if you met a monster in space, the characteristics of a particular planet, and some situational questions. To impress the judges, the answers must be concise and creative. To conquer anxiety, good preparation and prayer is the key.
Teresa: From a parent’s perspective, how did you support Belle to achieve her dream to be a Junior Astronaut?
Raymond: To become a Junior Astronaut is a journey of dream chasing. It started with walking with Belle and helping her to expand her horizon. We visited different museums, attended guided tours, and watched a variety of movies and exhibitions. We noticed that she got interested in the solar system, the beginning of the universe and the black hole. The more she knew, the more curious she was and the more she wanted to learn. We would browse NASA’s website together for the latest space news and read stories of different scientists. We also read articles about how to face failures and learn from mistakes.
Teresa: Well, that was a very good experience! The final question is about the space camp – what did you and Belle take away from this experience?
Raymond: As presented by Belle at the Celebration Luncheon, she stated that this overseas space adventure was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience. The exhibition centers in Huntsville and Kennedy Space Center made her astonished at how patient people were in striving for achievements in exploring the space. She learnt how they first tried making reusable space shuttles but failed. However, they kept trying. They never gave up! Also, meeting with astronauts Robert Lee Gibson and Samuel Thornton Durrance was amazing, since she always dreamed of meeting a real NASA astronaut. She learned a lot about their missions in space. The simulators of space mission, multi-axis trainer, and anti-gravity moon trainer helped her to feel how it was like to be trained as an astronaut, as well as how they gained respect for risking their lives in danger in order to help us to learn more and find another habitable home on another planet for the future.
As inspired by Tom Milner (Space Shuttle Engineer) who said, “We have dreamed big, ventured on wild seas, lost sight of the land a few times and found stars to guide us on our journey. We expanded our horizons and learned lessons. I can truly say I was blessed by our Creator to be part of the greatest human adventure of all time.” Belle understood that we should persevere in the darkness and dream big.
Belle did at a point wonder whether there were contradictions between the theory of scientists and the creation of God. Praise the Lord, we found some great testimonies of Christian scientists, like Isaac Newton who spread the gospel wholeheartedly and helped his best friend Edmond Halley (Halley’s comet was named after him) to believe in Jesus, and attended a talk about the relationship between science and religion, which strengthened her belief in God.
For me, from the creation of the universe and the journey to US, we experienced how great our God is and how amazing His wisdom, creations and love is. It reminds me a verse from bible. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV)
Teresa: Last but not least, I think there are many parents who would like to know how their children can be a Junior Astronaut. Would you please give us some advice?
Raymond: The parents should chase the dream with the kid starting from the love of Astronomy. Do enjoy the walk with the kid and go in-depth into the knowledge by whatever means the kid prefers in a fun way. The item for submission in the 1st Round Recruitment must be creative. The kid should be well-equipped with the knowledge of space and be aware of the latest news from NASA. Do visit the HK Space Museum for shows and seminars. Don’t forget to brush up the presentation skills in both English and Cantonese.
Teresa: Thank you so much Raymond for your sharing!