Thursday 18 October 2018

Blaskets targeted to be the next Cape Canaveral

A PLAN to build a spacecraft launchpad on one of the Blasket islands was put to the Irish government in 1973, writes Clodagh Sheehy.

A PLAN to build a spacecraft launchpad on one of the Blasket islands was put to the Irish government in 1973, writes Clodagh Sheehy.

A young American scientist, Gary Hudson, approached the IDA and then the Irish Consulate General in Chicago with his plans for the commercial space shuttle venture.

He had identified Inishnabro - an island in the Blasket group off the West Kerry coast, adjoining the island bought by former Taoiseach Charles Haughey - as the most suitable base.

Chicago Consulate General, Sean Farrell, in a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs said he believed Mr Hudson to be "genuine enough" and described him as "an intense individual, wrapped up in science and its branches".

Dr Hudson had told him that the group behind the development wished to remain anonymous until he had tested the reaction of the Irish government but they included an astronaut "who walked on the moon".

He also said they included British astronomer Sir Frederick Hoyle.

Hudson, who was 23 years of age at the time, had already founded a non-profit, scientific research organisation called the Foundation Institute.

He told Mr Farrell they had chosen Ireland because it was a neutral country, an EEC member, not a signatory to any space programme and its tax incentives and industrial grants were second to none. Its geographical position meant that a launch from the Blaskets provided little or no risk to the civilian population.

Mr Farrell admitted in his briefing to the Department that his first reaction was "one bordering on disbelief" but after close questioning he felt Dr Hudson was genuine.

Hudson estimated that each launch would cost £3m and they could expect to make 100pc profit through link-ups with industry.

The scientist reckoned that by the year 2000 "most of the raw materials used in industry would be obtained directly from the moon".

Department officials were not impressed. A memo from one official suggests they should not waste time on the proposals.

"Whatever his objective may be it is apparent that the scheme he propounded to Mr Farrell in Chicago belongs mainly to the realms of science fiction" and could prove "a gigantic leg-pull".

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