National Museum of Ireland receives Irish Apollo 16 experiment

17 Jan 2014

The National Museum of Ireland is to welcome back a piece of Ireland’s scientific history as an experiment carried on board the Apollo 16 spacecraft will be displayed there.

As part of the mission carried out in 1972 towards the end of the Apollo programme, an Irish experiment to measure cosmic rays was carried out on the craft, which included specially prepared plates with laminae of different materials.

When cosmic rays struck these plates, the depth to which they penetrated could be used as a measure of their energy to examine how much cosmic radiation was present and how much the human body could withstand as astronauts need continuous protection from these rays, as do satellites and space vehicle electronics.

Irish professors Denis O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies and their colleague Pro P Buford Price in the University of California designed the plates.

Joining Irish space history

Both O’Sullivan and Thompson, now retired, presented the equipment to the museum in Dublin, which will join other scientific endeavours and space history that has been given to the museum over time.

These include a piece of moon rock and an Irish tricolour flag that travelled to the moon and back, presented to the Irish people by the Nixon administration in 1973. The museum also holds a collection of meteorites that includes fragments of the moon and Mars.

Nigel Monaghan, keeper of the Natural History Division, National Museum of Ireland, welcomed the addition by saying: “The museum is delighted to receive these important scientific objects into its care. We hold millions of specimens covering 200 years of Irish scientific endeavour and are proud of the role played by Irish scientists in space exploration.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic