Irishman makes his mark on Euro space exploration
IRISHMAN Laurence O'Rourke has come a long way from his days drawing rockets and observing the skies from his boyhood home in Westmeath.
Now one of two science operations co-ordinators for the Rosetta mission, the 44-year-old has really made a name for himself amongst the stars - the asteroid '9524 O'Rourke' was named in his honour in July.
As joint leader of a team of around 25 people at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Madrid, Mr O'Rourke was right in the thick of things as the Rosetta mission finally made its landing yesterday.
Speaking to 'Astronomy Ireland' magazine, Mr O'Rourke ( inset) described the mission as "unlocking an icy treasure chest, which will give us clues about the birth and evolution of our solar system".
Since graduating from NUI Maynooth with honours in physics and maths and taking a Master's in microelectronics from University College Cork (UCC), Mr O'Rourke has worked on a number of projects for the ESA.
Originally involved in the Rosetta mission before it was launched in 2004, Mr O'Rourke returned to the project in late 2011.
Now based in Spain, Mr O'Rourke and his wife Cristina regularly bring their two children home to Ireland.
He said there were plenty of opportunities for young Irish people with motivation and enthusiasm to follow in his footsteps.