2004 Press Releases

17 Dec 2004

WATCH thISS SPACE! Schoolchildren in live link-up with international space station as it orbits over Ireland

300 primary school children were invited to 'Watch thISS Space' in University College Cork (UCC) today (17 December 2004) as the European Space Agency, the Discover Science & Engineering Programme, Enterprise Ireland and the Faculty of Science, UCC hosted a unique event involving a live link-in with the International Space Station (ISS).

The event was officially opened by Michael Ahern TD, Minister for Trade & Commerce who urged the children in attendance to consider a career in space or the science of space and went on to say : "I would like to recognise the role of Enterprise Ireland and the European Space Agency in developing this strong space community in Ireland. Over 30 Irish high technology companies are currently active in developing leading edge technologies for space. The Irish Government is committed to the continuation of this thriving industry and has a space strategy to ensure that this area is supported and continues to prosper and develop."

Ten school children had the opportunity to put a question to American astronaut, Leroy Chiao, as he orbited 400 kilometres above the earth in the International Space Station (ISS). Leroy arrived at the ISS last October and will live and work there for six months.

The European Space Agency along with the Discover Science & Engineering Programme offered ten schools the opportunity to participate in the project whereby pupils were asked to nominate the question that they would most like to put to Leroy regarding his career and his life in space. Each class was also asked to nominate one pupil to actually put these questions to Leroy.

The live link-up with the International Space Station (ISS) took place at exactly 13.56pm and lasted ten minutes. The ten children participating in the questions and answers session donned specially created space suits to get a sense of the type of clothing that Leroy wears on a day-to-day basis.

The assembled audience of pupils and teachers from each school, representatives from the European Space Agency and the Discover Science & Engineering Programme also got to hear the questions and their answers and learned a little bit more about life in space.

Introducing the event, Leo Enright, Chairman of the Discover Science & Engineering Programme commented: "Irish high technology companies play a key role in the European space community and many Irish men and women are involved in research and also technology development which supports this industry. We hope, through events like today, that we can encourage children to look at fascinating areas such as space and science as potential career options for them in future years."

The assembled pupils also got the opportunity to meet Jean-Francois Clervoy, one of thirteen European astronauts of the European Space Agency (ESA). Mr Clervoy spoke to the students about the three missions he had previously participated in, talked through the realities of day to day life in space and also outlined how he had come to pursue his current career.

The live link-in to the ISS was facilitated by the Irish Radio Transmitters Society who contacted the Cork Radio Club to work on the details of the broadcast. The Society has approximately 1,700 licensed members in Ireland who participate in the hobby of amateur radio which is a mix of both the science of electronics and worldwide communications. The Cork Radio Club liaised closely with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Enterprise Ireland to co-ordinate the activity and to ensure it progressed seamlessly.

The European Space Agency was established in 1975 and currently has 15 member states as well as a co-operation agreement with Canada. ESA (European Space Agency) space activities in Ireland are co-ordinated by Enterprise Ireland. To date over sixty Irish companies, assisted by Enterprise Ireland, have participated in a range of European space development programmes including launchers, satellite communications, satellite navigation and space science.

A number of these companies are currently successfully exploiting the technology in global commercial markets. In addition to the Irish industrial involvement in ESA, eight Irish university research teams are actively involved in space research ranging from deep space astronomy to research in advanced materials under the ESA Life and Physical Sciences programme utilising the International Space Station.

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