THEY may have already taken a step but a group of Ennis students are now hoping that, with some help, they will be able to take a giant leap towards a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Six students from St Flannan’s College in Ennis have taken second place in an international competition, run by US space agency NASA, for their plans for a ‘space elevator’.
The fifth-year students now have an opportunity to attend a conference in Los Angeles, featuring some of the biggest names in space exploration, including former astronauts and the founder of Amazon, Jeff Benzos, who is developing technologies to allow for space tourism.
However, in order for them to reach for the stars, the students have yet another out-of-this-world task to accomplish, with €12,000 in funding needed in order to take the trip. They are hopeful that a sponsor might come on board and support them in making their dream trip a reality.
Students George Harrington, Cyrus Gillan, Micheal Lacki, Aodha Merrinan, Tara McInerney and Ilias Zikiss, led by teacher John Conneely, with advice from Michael Horgan, took second place in the NASA Ames Settlement Design Competition. The Ennis entry came second, out of a total of 2,500 entries from 10,000 students across the globe, earning them an invitation to the International Space Development Convention in Los Angeles, where they will present their ideas to leading figures in science and the space industry.
For the competition, the students had to come up with a design for a settlement that would support 10,000 people in space. They even managed to come up with an innovative way to tackle climate change.
George explained that their EcoRise project was designed around the idea of taking greenhouse gas CO2 from Earth’s atmosphere to create carbon nano-tubes to be used for a so-called space elevator. This would be used to send building materials up to the doughnut-shaped settlement, situated between Earth and the moon, with the zero-gravity atmosphere making it easier to build.
He said the group were “delighted” to have come in second place in the competition, adding, “It was quite a shock really. We put in a lot of work and spent a long time researching different aspects of how a settlement in space would work.”
George added that it was a “great project” to work on and he said he and his fellow students are hopeful that enough money can be raised to allow them to travel to America.
“We would all love to go and meet the astronauts and scientists. It really is an amazing opportunity for us. I’ve always liked astrophysics, engineering and all that so to be able to go to this conference would be fantastic,” he said.
George’s mother, Nuala, is among a group of parents who have begun fundraising efforts for the trip. There has already been a coffee morning organised, with plans underway for a bag-packing event and other fundraisers.
“It was a great achievement for them to come in second place in this competition. As a result, they have been invited to attend the International Space Development Convention in America on May 24.
“This is an amazing opportunity for them. However, expenses for the trip are not covered so we are starting to fundraise for the €12,000 that is needed.
“As well as fundraising events, we are really hoping that a local company might come on board as a sponsor to help support us. We would encourage anybody who wants to help to get involved. It all adds up,” Nuala concluded.
By Jessica Quinn