One Small Step For Mana, One Giant Leap For Maori

Published: Mon 2 Sep 2013 10:10 AM
One Small Step For Mana, One Giant Leap For Maori
Some people say go hard or go home! But Mana Vautier says “shoot for the stars and if you miss you might just hit the moon.”
The irony of Mana’s statement is that while he doesn’t encourage failure, he dreams he’ll one day hit the moon following his life-long pursuit to be an astronaut.
Of Te Arawa, Tuhourangi and Ngati Kahungungunu descent, Mana reminds us of the “possibilities of a dream” when combined with persistence and endurance.
What’s more, Mana may just become the very first Maori to land on the moon or go into outer space.
Now in his early 30s, Mana has chased that dream with hard work and perseverance.
While not having yet achieved that dream, Mana is an engineer for The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), working at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston.
He remains optimistic and positive, turning down offers to go into the oil industry, where the big money is, to chase his dream of getting into space.
Ever since Mana was a small kid, he had a passion for space, and the idea of one day flying in space fascinated him.
“I had absolutely no idea at all how that might be possible, but it is a dream that I hung on to, and as life progressed, I gradually learned more about possible paths that might lead me there,” Mana said.
Mana was born in Auckland, raised in Auckland and Hong Kong and educated in the United States at Bringham Young University.
While studying at Auburn University, he was offered the opportunity to apply as an intern at NASA and was successful, working his entire summer next to some of the greatest engineers in the world.
When the father of four graduated the following year, he was offered a full time position at NASA and continues to hold fast to his unwavering dream to become an astronaut.
“It is most likely still quite a long way off. The selection process is extremely competitive, and many current astronauts applied multiple times before they were eventually selected. NASA hired eight new astronauts from last year’s intake,” Mana said.
Mana has faced many challenges in pursuit of his dream but continues to remain confident, frequently evaluating where he’s at, where he’s heading, and where he’s going.
“I remember driving half way across the US for university with a wife and 1-year-old and not having enough money for tuition, housing and food. There were times I could not understand the material for certain classes and so I found myself repeating classes. It’s quite a challenge living half way across the world away from family, people and culture,” Mana said.
“Everyone goes through life and faces challenging, difficult times. I believe those experiences help us learn and grow.
“I have wondered if what I am doing and if the road along which I am travelling is the best course of action for me and my family, but to be honest, I don't think I have ever truly felt like giving up.
Mana has agreed to connect via Skype with some of west Auckland’s schools including Fruitvale Primary in Glen Eden, Nga Kakano o te Kaihanga Kura in Te Atatu and Waipareira’s alternative education unit, Amokura.
Mana will share his journey and aspirational vision with the students encouraging them to reach for and rise to their potential.
Mana’s connection with local kura, happening tomorrow at 10am (NZ), is an opportunity to highlight Waipareira’s Digi service, the Trust’s latest initiative, which aims to connect every child with digital media allowing children to dream big.
“We are fully supportive of Mana and his goal to become an astronaut,” Waipareira CEO John Tamihere said.
“We want all our children to have big aspirations and not let anything or anyone stand in their way.
“Who knows, Mana could be our first Maori in space and perhaps the Waipareira tohu will be on his helmet and flag.”

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