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Ireland’s Space Program.

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You might have heard about the Herschel Telescope of late. If not possibly because you only consume Irish media basically it is the largest telescope ever to be put in orbit. Some recent images showing the cosmos in never before seen detail have been released. Scientists are raving about this because basically, it can tells us much of what we don’t know on the birth of stars. So why I am posting this on a political blog? Well people might not know this but Ireland has a space program.

This Herschel Telescope was launched by the European Space agency  of which Ireland is a member.

There has been substantial contributions from Irish scientists with NUI Maynoth designing alot of the optics and an Irish man Leo Metcalfe is Science Operations Manager. So we have quiet a big input into this.  So when the latest images were released they featured in how many Irish newspapers?

There were 10 founding members of the ESA  in October 1980, Ireland joined in December 1980 to become the 11th member.  We contribute 0.55% of the ESA budget or €13.3 million. And ever rocket that they fire into space has a little Irish flag on the side of it. (top left beside German)


Now I doubt many people in Ireland know this. I doubt many people know that Europe has an astronaut core and Irish people can apply to be astronauts(as of yet there is no Irish Astronauts) . Again something that not alot of people in Ireland probably know ?

We want to think of ourselves as a knowledge economy but how much coverage those the space program that we are part of get? Often the news and newspapers might cover a Space Shuttle launch but have you seen coverage of launches of space vehicles that we paid a bit of and basically has our name on it?

If we are serious about promoting science in this country why not cover a few of these launches. Cover the Irish scientists that work on these projects. Why not have Brian Cowen go down to French Guinea and watch a launch (more useful then horse racing junkets) . Highlight to Irish people that we in Ireland basically can and do do rocket science.

Rather then have continuous coverage of the arts and theatre  how about a small bit just a small be of recognition of what science in Ireland really is. The arts gets weekly supplements in the newspapers, radio shows and TV shows. Why not just have even a small picture of what Ireland can do.

Ariane 5 Launch 512 - ESASurely that is as worthy of a front page as some street theatre group.

Launch video.

NUI Maynooth video

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7 Responses to “Ireland’s Space Program.”

  1. # Comment by Daniel Sullivan Dec 18th, 2009 14:12

    Really, Simon, you ask for too much. Expect the Irish media and state to pay attention to actual science instead of job announcements from call centres to packaging that are all high tech according to the DoTE. Sure isn’t all science on the internet these days.

  2. # Comment by Veronica Dec 18th, 2009 15:12


    I’m reminded of the story about the man walking through Dublin Airport a few years ago and pausing to admire the splendid display of photographs of Ireland’s Nobel laureates. Except that he noticed one was missing. He rang the airport and asked: “Why isn’t Ernest Walton up there?”

    “Ernest Who?”, came the response. “What did he write?”

  3. # Comment by Simon Dec 19th, 2009 13:12

    Lol veronica. I am not surprised at all. I doubt 10% of the country know we got a nobel prize for physics. I blame the arts students. They control the media and thus don’t know the first thing about science or what is happening in it.

  4. # Comment by Ian Dec 19th, 2009 17:12

    I basically think that this article basically over-uses the word “basically”, which basically makes it a bit annoying to read. Basically.


  5. # Comment by Veronica Dec 19th, 2009 17:12


    Never mind the media, our politically class is almost entirely bereft of scientists! I can think of only one – Dr. Mary Upton of the Labour Party.

    Science was removed from the primary school curriculum early on after Independence to make more room for the teaching of Irish. Since most people of that generation did not advance to second level education, an entire generation of Irish people grew up without even an awareness of science unless they were motivated to read up about it themselves. In the mid-seventies, after the ‘Inter Cert’, my own school decided that our science education should end, except for domestic science (now called ‘home economics’ or something like that). Young ladies didn’t need to study science, we were advised, since we were destined for a different role in life. The real reason may have had more to do with being unable to recruit suitably qualified science teachers, or being unwilling to do so, but to me it felt like someone had slammed a door in my mind.

    Granted the government in recent years has been making loads of money available to support science research projects at third and fourth level in Ireland, but a lot more needs to be done. Should be, too, since Ireland has a wonderful science tradition. Government being seen to support our scientific endeavours might not be a bad place to start.

  6. # Comment by Richard Dec 20th, 2009 10:12

    As an Irishman in Australia, I too was surprised that any real space development was going on in Ireland, though some 25 years when I was working for a development lab in Ireland I had helped to prepare a tender for an ESA project (we didn’t win on that occasion).

    Anyway, good to see that space development *is* happening in Ireland, but yes, brickbats to Irish media for not giving it proper coverage. This is not specifically an Irish problem however: Aussie media would rather report on sports celebrities and trivial nonsense than give science a fair go. American media are no better.


    PS: Pardon me being picky, but by “astronaut core” did you mean “astronaut *corps*”?

  7. # Comment by David Toolan Nov 11th, 2011 17:11

    Simon I agree with what your saying about promotion of the space programme (esa) in Ireland and the fact that we have a center for peopel who want to apply to become an austronaut. We are in direr need of it. So why not take this further and start a youtube channel or better yet wright to one of the many production companes in Ireland to make a documentary about Irelands involment in the ESA. Dave.