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Irish students launch space experiment

Friday, May 09 10:28:27

The first Irish students to launch a science experiment into space are today visiting the NASA Wallops Flight Centre in Virginia, USA.

The trip, which has been sponsored by Irish Cement, sees the four secondary school students from St. Nessan's Community College in Limerick visit the centre where their experiment will launch this summer.

The students are set to be the first Irish teenagers to launch their science experiment into space after they won 'The Only Way is Up' competition run by The Irish Centre for Composites Research (IComp) at the University of Limerick, through its partnership with NanoRacks LLC earlier this year.

Their experiment will investigate the effects that microgravity has on the solidification of reinforced concrete and will spend 30 days orbiting the Earth. It is scheduled to blast off on the Orbital Sciences Orb-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from NASA Wallops this coming summer. The space experiment will be returned to the students post spaceflight and will allow them to directly compare the results to a ground controlled experiment at the University of Limerick and at Irish Cement's laboratory at its Drogheda facility.

Irish Cement's sponsorship has facilitated the trip over to NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia for the four students, their teacher Gavin Doyle, Principal Eugene O'Brien and Dr. Norah Patten, Communications and Outreach manager for the Irish Centre for Composites Research (IComp) at the University of Limerick and the competition co-ordinator. The team travelled over on Saturday 3rd May and have spent the week over there visiting the NASA Flight Centre.

The competition, which is the first of its kind in Ireland, gave students across the country the opportunity to submit ideas for experiments to be flown to, and carried out on, the International Space Station.

Speaking about 'The Only Way Is Up' winners, Seamus Lynch, MD of Irish Cement Limited said: "Irish Cement is delighted to be supporting the four transition year students from St. Nessan's Community College so they can visit NASA and see where their experiment will launch from this summer. This is a very exciting project; concrete is the second most consumed substance on the planet after water and with cement being the main constituent in concrete, we are really interested to see their results."

Dr. Norah Patten, Communications and Outreach manager for the Irish Centre for Composites Research (IComp) at the University of Limerick and who co-ordinated 'The Only Way is Up' competition said: "I'm delighted that the students will have this opportunity to visit NASA Wallops, to learn more about the space industry and to see where their experiment will be launched to the ISS. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them and I'm sure it will have a lasting impact. Opportunities like this are only made possible through funding and sponsorship, so I am grateful to all involved."