Harrogate pupil meets astronaut

Oliver Grattoni-May with James F. Reilly (s).

Oliver Grattoni-May with James F. Reilly (s).

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A Harrogate schoolboy this week came face-to-face with veteran NASA astronaut James F. Reilly.

Ashville pupil Oliver Grattoni-May, eight, was one of thousands of youngsters across the UK to enter the Kennedy Space Centre competition run by a national children’s newspaper, which asked junior school pupils to write a short letter explaining why they should be chosen to meet the space traveller, and the two best questions they would ask him.

The questions that Oliver submitted – and led to him being chosen as a winner - were:

1) If a child went into space, would their rate of growth speed up, slow down or stay the same?

2) When the particles that are sent out from the sun hit the earth, do the northern lights and the southern lights shine equally bright or does one shine brighter than the other and can that be seen from space?

Ashville Junior School Headteacher Simon Bailey said: “We are delighted for Oliver in wining this competition to interview Commander Reilly.

Ashville Junior School pupil Oliver Grattoni-May (s).

Ashville Junior School pupil Oliver Grattoni-May (s).

“It’s certainly not every day you get to meet someone who has travelled in space and visited the International Space Station.

“The school gets First News every week and a copy is available in their class rooms and in the library for the children to read. Oliver spotted the competition and decided to enter it. He is fascinated by the subject of the universe and is a big fan of Professor Brian Cox.

“The letter he wrote was excellent and the questions particularly impressive; I’m looking forward to hearing what the answers are!”

During the day Oliver was filmed interviewing Reilly and asked dozens of questions to find out everything he’d ever wanted to know about space travel. Oliver was presented with his very own NASA jump suit and a goodie bag including space ice-cream and a coin made from metal flown on Apollo. He also got to take home a giant Apollo model which now has pride of place in his school, Ashville College in Harrogate.

It’s certainly not every day you get to meet someone who has travelled in space and visited the International Space Station

Ashville Junior School Headteacher Simon Bailey

Oliver’s mum, Katharine, said that this had been a dream come true for Oliver and that he had “been inspired by his experience and in believing in his dreams because sometimes they do come true!”

Reilly is visiting the UK to promote the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex – the world’s most authentic space attraction. The competition was organised and hosted by Attraction Tickets Direct.

James F. Reilly has spent more than 850 hours in space, has completed five spacewalks, three Space Shuttle missions and multiple visits to the International Space Station. During these missions, he has collectively travelled more than 14 million miles and orbited the earth more than 550 times.