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‘Everyone Was Quite Impressed’: 9-Year-Old College Student Teaches NASA Scientists ‘More Than One Thing’ During Tour, Stumps Them with His Brilliance

NASA and one of its contractors opened their doors to a 9-year-old rocket scientist whose biggest dream is to work in astrophysics.

While the goal was to treat the young student to a fun experience, they were the ones left in awe, with a spokesperson saying how the workers were “impressed” by his knowledge.

David Balogun made history in February by becoming the youngest person to graduate high school in Pennsylvania. He also became the second-youngest person in the nation’s history to graduate from high school, and his field of interest is space, specifically black holes and supernovas.

Child Genius Wows NASA Scientists
David Balogun, 9, is among the youngest to graduate high school. (Photo: YouTube screenshot/FOX 11 Los Angeles)

After news of his graduation made headlines, NASA and the Maryland-based Space Telescope Science Institute invited the brilliant young man to visit the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Center in Baltimore, according to Insider.

The Space Telescope Science Institute is one of the most important campuses for NASA as it is the Mission Operations Center for NASA’s Webb Space Telescope, operates the Hubble Telescope, and will soon be responsible for the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope.

The kid genius came to visit the institute in March.

“I had actually seen David’s story all over social media and thought, ‘Wow, I’d bet he’d find a trip to Webb’s Mission Operations Center exciting!'” Hannah Braun, the institute’s spokesperson, explained to Insider.

Braun said everyone at the institute was “thrilled” to meet Balogun, who was escorted on the adventure by his mother, Ronya Balogun.

The mom said this was an opportunity to have an immersive experience inside his dream career while they figure out which university he will attend next. Currently, he is taking classes at a local community college.

The institute set up a private tour for the youngster. Even before he arrived in the building, Braun said staffers were “buzzing with excitement” to meet the history maker and MENSA member. Because of the way the institute is set up, there are no regular tours, and it is not often that visitors who come are as young as Balogun.

“We don’t have children visit [the center] really, besides families of employees on occasion, so the crew didn’t quite know what to expect with David,” she said.

The scientists helping out with the tour were especially excited, “joking that he would probably ask science questions they didn’t have the answer to,” Braun said to explain the energy around Balogun’s visit.

The pint-sized high school senior grad came through the door in his orange NASA space suit and was taken to see the Flight Control Room.

The Flight Control Room is described as “the heart of the Webb telescope.” In this area, “teams communicate with the telescope” and “monitor the general health of the observatory.”

He also watched the scientists do a “mock-up for the soundcheck,” a process that is done with astronauts before they take off.

Aware that this was not the real thing, he told reporters while the activity was “super fun,” he was OK with there not being an actual astronaut on the other end.

“I wasn’t going to actually go and say, ‘Oh, I’m a 9-year-old operations controller,'” he quipped.

According to Braun, Balogun was inquisitive but also taught the employees as much as he learned.

As soon as he started talking to the scientist, she says “It was quite clear that David’s knowledge was extensive.”

“Our scientists were able to refer to specific observations — like one particular Webb image release that combined images from two different instruments — that David immediately remembered and could list off details about,” she said.

Not surprisingly, as the scientist predicted, Balogun did have information they had never heard of, like his discussion on Super Saturn.

“We were all discussing the different types of exoplanets (planets that orbit stars other than our sun) that Webb studies and will study in the future. David then mentioned how cool Super Saturn is, and we said, ‘What’s that?’ So then we got to Googling,” Braun recalled.

“So everyone who spends all day around these sorts of things definitely learned more than one thing from David during his visit.”

The spokesperson said, “Everyone was quite impressed with David and all of his knowledge.”

While space and science is his passion— he says he wants to be an astrophysicist, chemist, engineer, and software designer— he has other interests like martial arts, sports, playing the piano, and school reform.

In an interview with CBS News, he shared how a significant amount of students identified as gifted in elementary school are disengaged by high school. He believes he knows the reason, “they’re bored.”

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