Monday 9 December 2019

Irish link to Rosetta mission landing

An artists impression of Rosetta orbiting the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasime. Photo: ESA, image by AOES Medialab
An artists impression of Rosetta orbiting the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasime. Photo: ESA, image by AOES Medialab
Artists impression of Philea being deployed to land on the comet. Photo by ESA: Spacecraft: ESAJ. Huart.

To celebrate the historic Rosetta mission 100 lucky second-level students are attending a Cosmic Careers Day today at Cork Institute of Technology, which includes a 10-minute live link-up with an Irish-born and educated engineer working in one of three control centres involved in the landing.

Laurence O'Rourke, from near Mullingar, Co Westmeath, who is the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta Science Operations Coordinator will give a unique insight into the Lander (Philae) Operations Team involvement in the mission and how they will look at all data coming from Philae and coordinate what is done on landing day and onwards.

Laurence, who, as a teenager bought a telescope to observe the stars and planets, is an NUI Maynooth (now Maynooth University) physics and maths graduate and he later undertook a master's in microelectronics at University College Cork.

Today he is at the Lander Control Centre, Cologne,Germany, where Philae was built.

The activities at each of the three control centres will be closely linked and will be featured in a combined English-language ESA TV programme broadcast, with live updates transmitted from all three control centres.

All the way to space and back

Two Limerick experiments have recently come back to Earth after breaking new frontiers by being tested in space.

The results are keenly awaited. Both projects were sent to the International Space Station, and they returned to Earth at the end of last month.

Second-level students Jason Hannan, Kevin Hanley, Jamie O'Connell and Jonathan Roche from Nessan's Community College wanted to investigate the effects that microgravity has on the solidification of reinforced concrete. Their projected was selected after a competition run by the University of Limerick.

Meanwhile, researchers at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) are curious about how certain plants may grow in microgravity conditions.

The finding may help to discover new ways to grow vegetables in space that might improve the diets of astronauts and provide them with healthier and tastier foods. Professor Gary Stutte, a Marie Curie Research Fellow to the Controlled Environment Laboratory for Life Science (CELLS) at LIT said that his team are "very optimistic about this experiment as it will tell us much about the operating limits of the biological process, which could lead to extremely valuable applications both in space and back here on Earth".

The results are being analysed.

Irish Independent

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