A Garnock Academy pupil is reaching for the stars after being selected to attend an out of this world trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Centre.

Niamh O’Neill was among 100 successful applicants from all over the country to gain a place on Strathclyde University’s Scottish Space School.

The annual week-long Summer residential programme offers lectures, labs and workshops themed around space and is delivered by academics and researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, as well as visiting NASA representatives.

Out of the 100 young hopefuls on the programme, just 10 are chosen each year to attend a once in a lifetime visit to Houston, Texas – and among this year’s lucky few is 17-year-old Niamh from Kilbirnie.

The teen will head out to the US on October 17 where she will enjoy VIP tours of the Johnson Space Centre, meet astronauts, visit Mission Control and visit Rocket Park to see the Saturn V Rocket – the most powerful rocket ever built and operated.

Niamh told the Herald: “It’s absolutely amazing, it feels really surreal. I never thought I would be going to something like this. They sent us an email to let us know [we were chosen] and I just couldn’t stop reading it because I couldn’t believe it.

“I’m just really, really happy to be going, I’m really excited. It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Apollo mission so it’s really great timing.

“My friends and family have been really supportive. I probably couldn’t have done it without them.”

Niamh hopes that her experience at NASA will set her on the path to a successful career in science.

She said: “I’m really passionate about science, I’ve always enjoyed it since I was wee. I like physics, just the mechanics of it and everything. I’m hoping to do aerospace engineering at Strathclyde University.

“I feel like I’d like to work for NASA. During the week [at Scottish Space School] we had an engineer out from NASA, Heather Paul, who gave us a talk. Hearing her just really inspired me. She’s from a similar background to me so I thought if she can do it, why can’t I?”

Science Faculty Head at Garnock Community Campus, Diane Reid, said the school was proud of their star pupil.

She said: “Niamh has worked hard since first year. She’s such a hardworking and conscientious girl. I’m so happy for her.”

Niamh’s mum, Lorraine O’Neill, added: “It’s a once in a lifetime trip.

“Niamh is very determined in where she wants to go in her future career path, I’m absolutely delighted for her. She just works so, so hard and I’m just delighted that all her hard work has paid off. I’m so excited for her. I can’t even explain how proud I am of her.”

The Scottish Space School is funded by the Faculty of Engineering at Strathclyde University.