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Ireland puts €80m in space as NASA students blast off

CHRIS Hadfield's tweeting is not the only connection we have to space as Irish technology is now a major player in the space race, supplying €80m worth of work and sending astronauts and satellites into orbit.

And news of the spend comes as four secondary school students – who won a national competition with a space experiment they devised – have jetted off to a NASA base.

The budding scientists from Limerick will see their experiment to test the impact outer-space has on concrete, being conducted on board the International Space Station.

The experiment was the winning entry in a national competition organised by the Irish Centre for Composites Research (iCOMP), and it will be activated by a NASA astronaut on board the station.

The St Nessan's Community College students – Jason Hannan, Kevin Hanley, Jamie O'Connell, Jonathan Roche and their teachers Gavin Doyle and Eugene O'Brien, flew out from Shannon airport to NASA's Wallops Island base in Virginia.

Meanwhile, Bryan Rodgers in Enterprise Ireland says our space work is worth €50m a year to the Irish economy.

"Last year we invested €17m in the European programme and we get approximately a €4 return for every €1 spent," said Mr Rodgers.

The €50m, is an "underestimate", believe Enterprise Ireland.

At the beginning of this month the first of six very special satellites was launched with the purpose of giving European organisations and businesses bundles of valuable scientific information.

Irish space tech giants have been busy working with the European Space Agency (ESA) involved in sending nearly all of their projects into orbit.

Little is known about Irish involvement in the space race but 80 firms here have contributed so far.


Irish-designed software even helps manage life-support of the International Space Station where Commander Hadfield tweeted us image after image of the island of Ireland from last year.

"Irish firms are involved in launcher, sat-nav programmes and science programmes – so astronomy and astrophysics," stated Mr Rodgers, "so basically looking for answers to the big questions of the universe, the very large questions," he added.

"In the last call for astronauts in 2009, approximately 150 applicants were Irish," explained Mr Rodgers, although none were successful.

He said however, "that there are many ways for Irish people to work in space with all the science and technology programmes available."