DIAS highlights Irish connections to Apollo 11 moon landing

10 Jul 2019

From left: Emer Kee, Dinah Molloy, Hilary O'Donnell. Image: DIAS

DIAS will run a number of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

On Monday (8 July), the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) held a special event to commemorate Ireland’s connections to NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, which saw humans step foot on the moon for the first time ever.

DIAS is the world’s second (and Ireland’s only) institute for advanced studies. It is a global institution that attracts scholars and academics from around the world to conduct and publish advanced research in Celtic studies, theoretical physics, astrophysics and geophysics. Since it was established in 1940, DIAS has led Ireland’s participation in a number of international research endeavours that focus on humankind’s greatest unanswered questions.

DIAS first became involved in space research following the successful Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969. At that time, DIAS professor Denis O’Sullivan received some of the first lunar material made available for scientific investigation during his time at Berkeley.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, DIAS formally recognised Hilary O’Donnell, Emer Kee and Dinah Molloy at the event. These three women were all working at DIAS alongside O’Sullivan, studying lunar samples and space research materials following the 1969 mission. In the years following, this team also examined materials from later Apollo missions that took place in the 1970s.

Professor emeritus Alex Thompson, who partnered with O’Sullivan on some of his work, was also recognised for his contributions.

The entire team’s work was commended by CEO and registrar of DIAS, Dr Eucharia Meehan, as well as Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, who was also in attendance.

During the event, DIAS welcomed Teresa Lago, secretary general of the International Astronomical Union and former board member of the DIAS School of Cosmic Physics. Lago delivered a talk which explored Ireland’s long history of association with the International Astronomical Union, as well as the experience of small countries joining the European Southern Observatory and the important role of astronomy education.

More Apollo 11 events to come

As the month of July continues, DIAS will run a number of other events to mark the half-century since the iconic landing.

On 19 July at Dunsink Observatory, between 9pm and 11pm as part of the Festival of Curiosity, an event called ‘Summer Night Stargazing’ will take place. This event will feature further talks about DIAS’s role in the Apollo 11 missions and a guided tour of Grubb’s heritage South Telescope. If the weather is suitable, there’ll also be live stargazing from the lawns at Dunsink.

The following day (20 July), Prof Peter Gallagher, head of astronomy and astrophysics at DIAS, will join a panel of special guests at a live RTÉ recording in Blackrock Castle Observatory to mark the moon landing’s anniversary.

You can see a comprehensive list of the commemorative events here.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic