ETHAN Gleeson's determination to visit outer space has rocketed sky high, after he received a letter of encouragement from NASA astronaut Andy Thomas.
"Andy was the first Australian astronaut and I'm going to be the second," said Ethan, six, who is in year one at St Columban's Primary School at Mayfield.
Principal Danielle Reed said Ethan stood out for his "very high reading age" when he joined the school and was selected for its gifted education program, which involves working with a mentor on a personal interest project.
He chose outer space and designed and made a model of the solar system, which his parents Kim and Susan said he had memorised by the age of four.
"We started by talking about all the things he already knew about space and I couldn't write down quickly enough all the things he was telling me, so I had to get the iPad out and record a video," Ms Reed said.
"Then we started on 'I wonder' questions and thinking about what he wanted to know.
"One day he wondered if there had been an Australian astronaut.
"I told him we could write Andy Thomas a letter and his eyes lit up, 'Could we?'"
They sent the letter to NASA in Washington last August and received a reply last week.
Mr Thomas enclosed a letter, replica clothing patch identical to the one he wore on his suit during his last mission and an autographed photo.
"I was amazed and excited," Ethan said.
"I had just wanted to find out some more information so I could know a lot more - and there's so much more.
"I asked him what you have to do to be an astronaut. I want to explore the whole galaxy."
Mr Thomas, who flew on four missions over 12 years, told Ethan that his second flight to the Mir space station in 1998 was the most rewarding.
"After all, I had to train to become a cosmonaut to do it and live in Russia and learn the language as well," he wrote.
"I spent 20 weeks on the space station and orbited the earth over 2000 times.
"That is when I had some fabulous views of the earth and of Australia in particular.
"You would be amazed how red the Outback looks when you see it from space."
Mr Thomas told Ethan "you too could one day become an astronaut".
"Just stay in school and keep up your studies.
"I did that and then became an engineer and that is what led me to being able to apply to become an astronaut.
"You never know, you might one day get to walk on the moon!"
Ms Reed and Ethan worked together on Fridays in term two and three.
"He would say 'We're going to do some hard thinking today and it's going to be fun'," she said.
"He has that natural curiosity that lots of little children have, but lucky for him he has the ability to act on it and find things out. His potential is only limited by his imagination."