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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 August, 2004, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Space cadet's Nasa visit
International Space Station
Catherine stayed with an astronaut who had been to the international space station
A teenager is back home after spending two weeks as a trainee astronaut at Nasa's Space Centre in Texas.

Catherine Tonkins, 16, went to the international space school's summer camp in Houston.

She stayed with an astronaut and his family and received lectures from people who have walked on the moon.

The only representative from Wales, Catherine, from Llanddewi Brefi, Ceredigion, said it was an experience she would never forget.

The space centre was a fantastic place and I even got to sit on the flight director's chair in the old mission control
Catherine Tonkins

"In the first week everyone got to know each other," said Catherine, who is a pupil at Tregaron High School.

"Then we were given a task to plan a mission to Mars.

"We were split into groups and each given different stages to look at.

"I was in the group which was looking at life on Mars.

"The space centre was a fantastic place and I even got to sit on the flight director's chair in the old mission control, where the first moon landing was directed from.

"We were given lectures by scientists and engineers who'd worked at Nasa for years and even one by astronaut John Young who had been to the moon."

Catherine added: "I was paired up with a girl from Scotland and we both stayed with astronaut Scott Kelly and his family.

"He has been to the international space station and is set to go back in 2006.

"I don't think I want to be an astronaut, but I'd like to work behind the scenes perhaps making space suits as I'm interested in textiles."

Catherine Tonkins (left)
Catherine (left) at the Johnson Space Centre in Texas

Catherine was interviewed to make it onto the summer school course.

"We all felt so privileged to be at the space school," she added.

"I've learned so much about other people's cultures and so much about space too.

"I hadn't been on a plane before going to the United States so the whole thing was a great experience that I'll never forget."

Catherine's home town of Llanddewi Brefi was made famous by the BBC comedy series Little Britain.

And for such a small community it has surprising links with space.

The mother of Welsh-American astronaut Jo Tanner comes from the village, while his grandfather was head teacher of the town's primary school.


SEE ALSO:
Nasa powers up with supercomputer
06 Aug 04  |  Technology
Europe keen to cooperate on Mars
16 Jan 04  |  Science/Nature
Suspected leak on space outpost
06 Jan 04  |  Science/Nature
New York honours Indian astronaut
13 Jul 04  |  South Asia


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