BT Young Scientist projects to be tested on moon training mission

31 May 2018

From left: Sam Hendrick, Elle MacHale, Dr Norah Patten and Omar Salem. Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

Ireland’s astronaut in training, Dr Norah Patten, will take a number of BT Young Scientist projects to come with her on her moon base training mission in Poland.

Some of the most recent BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) projects are set to head to the moon, or rather, an Earth-based training mission to prepare potential astronauts for what it would one day be like to walk on the lunar surface.

The news was announced by the event’s organisers as part of a partnership with Ireland’s astronaut in training, Dr Norah Patten, who will take some of this year’s projects with her for her first international moon analogue mission this July.

Taking place in Poland, Patten will join six other crew members from Romania, Australia, Egypt and Canada in a space environment that simulates aspects of human missions to the moon, and other space environments.

Helping us to live on the moon

The projects going with Patten will be put to the test in Poland to see if the findings differ under a simulated space setting. This is the first time that chosen projects from the BTYSTE will be examined in such an environment.

“My inspiration to bring projects from the BTYSTE came from my partnership with the exhibition in January 2018,” Patten said.

“The students’ enthusiasm, dedication and creativity were truly inspirational, and I wanted to use this opportunity to showcase new ways to experiment with their research.

“To me, it is fascinating taking a task that may be so easy here and exploring how the smallest pressure, temperature and light change might have an impact. All of this new information and knowledge will help us to understand how we may need to adapt to travel and live on the moon in years to come.”

Shortlist of 10

So far, a total of 10 projects have been put forward for consideration, and it is up to the mission control lead to decide which projects get to be officially tested on the mission, expected to be some time in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Patten is preparing for her part in the mission, which will see her work in an environment similar to what astronauts would find on the moon, completely cut off from the outside world.

Treating it as if they were in space, the crew members will be required to wear their spacesuits when leaving the ‘Hab’ facility within a large aircraft hangar.

Speaking of the students’ projects, managing director of BT Ireland, Shay Walsh, said: “We hope that through this latest exciting development, it will show our young people how exciting STEM can be and to encourage more young students to consider submitting a project idea for the 2019 BTYSTE.”

Updated, 11.12am, 1 June 2018: This article was amended to clarify the number of projects shortlisted to be taken to the analogue moon mission.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic