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British Boy Over-The-Moon With NASA Engineer's Big-Hearted Gesture
February 28, 2014

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The kindness of an engineer from NASA’s Ames Research Center has captured English hearts and earned him the thanks of a little boy in the United Kingdom—and NASA’s administrator.

For a school project, four-year-old Lucas Whiteley from Sunny Hill School in Wrenthorpe, West Yorkshire in England sent a short video to NASA asking three questions, such as, “How many stars are there?”

It was Lucas’ father’s idea. James Whiteley, 37, had done the same thing when he was young, sent in written questions, and received a packet of information from NASA in return.

The technology has changed, but not NASA’s ability to reach out and inspire. What Lucas received three weeks later via YouTube was a 10-minute homemade video from aerospace engineer Ted Garbeff, 30, a wind tunnel engineer at Ames in California’s Silicon Valley. With the help of colleague Laura Kushner and his cellist wife, Kristin, Garbeff made the video with his smart phone over several days in his spare time at Ames and at a beach near his home in Scotts Valley, Calif.

The video and Garbeff's effort to reach out and inspire was picked up by British news media, and the story of Garbeff and Lucas has blasted off. Newspapers, radio and television, including the BBC and ITV have interviewed Garbeff.

“I thought maybe ten people would see it,” he said. “Now it has more than 36,000 views. It has been overwhelming for me, people have been so kind leaving messages on YouTube,” he said. “I thought I’d get criticisms of my shoddy editing work, but that is probably part of the appeal of it.”

Lucas and his family, as well as his grandfather and his primary school headmaster, all sent thank-you notes to Ted—and he woke up on the morning of Friday, Feb. 28 to emails from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Ames Director S. Pete Worden.

“It was a really nice note saying thanks for taking the time to do that,” he said of the administrator’s message. “I know he’s our administrator, but he’s also an astronaut, so he’s a total hero to me,” Garbeff said.

Now Garbeff is a hero to a boy in England, a boy who reminded Ted’s family in Stockton, Calif. of someone else.

“My mom keeps telling me I was exactly like that little boy when I was his age. I was a lot like Lucas and I also loved NASA. Obviously he’s an adorable little boy and when I saw his video, I thought wouldn’t it be fun to make someone feel the way I did at that age?”

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Jack Foley, 650-604-4034
NASA's Ames Research Center

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Ted Garbeff’s video response to Lucas Whiteley’s questions.
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Ted Garbeff
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Ted Garbeff in front of Ames’ Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel with his LEGO space shuttle.
Ted Garbeff in front of Ames' Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel with his LEGO space shuttle model.
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Ted Garbeff
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Ted Garbeff prepares a spacecraft heat shield model for testing in a wind tunnel.
Ted Garbeff prepares a spacecraft heat shield model for testing in a wind tunnel.
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NASA Ames / Dominic Hart
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Page Last Updated: February 28th, 2014
Page Editor: Jessica Culler