Would you like the chance to float like an astronaut?

11 Dec 2018

Image: Zero G Corporation

Enter the Zero Gravity Raffle from Inspire Space and you could win an all-expenses-paid astronaut experience, while supporting Irish students exploring space careers.

Inspire Space is a space education and outreach organisation that provides opportunities for people to participate in space-related activities in Ireland. This involves funding Irish students in their pursuit of space careers as well as running public outreach events throughout the year.

One such event is this year’s Zero Gravity Raffle, which offers one lucky winner the chance to experience what it’s like to float weightless in space, just like an astronaut.

Proceeds from this raffle will support Inspire Space funding for students attending the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France.

‘The fact that there is still so much unknown about space feeds into our human urge to explore, to grow, to expand and to learn. And anything that can encourage those values is surely not a bad use of time’

Laura Keogh was the first person to be funded by Inspire Space in 2016, and since then has become involved with the organisation. She is now secretary of Inspire Space and works part-time organising activities, answering emails asking about space careers, and generating new ideas to inspire people via space.

She answered questions from Siliconrepublic.com on the Irish contribution to space exploration and how our readers can try for a chance to feel like an astronaut.

With no space programme in Ireland, do you think we have less of an appetite for space exploration?

I wouldn’t say that at all. Ireland has been a member of the European Space Agency (ESA, Europe’s version of NASA) since the beginning – 1975. So Ireland has been involved since the start in doing ESA space research, building robotic arms and supporting European astronauts going to the International Space Station, a space laboratory that orbits the Earth.

Ireland even has a growing space industry, with over 60 Irish companies involved in the space sector in some shape or form, according to Enterprise Ireland. Currently, University College Dublin (UCD) is building Ireland’s first satellite, which is called EIRSAT-1. There is even a dedicated space master’s programme in UCD.

Furthermore, this year, Ireland joined the European Southern Observatory, meaning Irish people now have access to some of the most advanced ground-based telescopes in the world. And last year, Ireland completed the construction of I-LOFAR (a low-frequency array), making Ireland an intrinsic part of the world’s largest connected radio telescope, which spans the length and breadth of Europe.

Most excitingly, consultations took place this year to develop an Irish space strategy, so stay tuned on what that might be.

Why is public engagement in space science and exploration important?

Public engagement in space generally, not just science and exploration, is wonderful for two reasons.

First, space can be an exciting method through which an unlimited array of subjects can be taught. Space can inspire people to be anything from astronauts to engineers, to lawyers and policymakers.

Space, like any other sector, needs people with all different skillsets. Thus, encouraging public engagement in space can help people find their true passions. Perhaps the colours of cosmic collisions can mesmerise a child and make them realise art or graphic design is their passion. Perhaps hearing about the political debates on whether colonising Mars would be legal can encourage someone to get into politics. Of course, watching rockets blast off into space could encourage people to study anything from rocket propulsion or engineering, or simply want to be an astronaut.

Second, the concept of outer space is naturally inspiring. It reminds us that there is a whole universe out there and it’s not science-fiction. There are black holes, dark matter and billions of stars! Fathoming the size of the universe and all that is in it, and understanding that Earth is a microscopic blob can always help us put things into perspective and remind us to get excited about life.

The fact that there is still so much unknown about space feeds into our human urge to explore, to grow, to expand and to learn. And anything that can encourage those values is surely not a bad use of time in my opinion. Who knows, maybe it will be an Irish person who is the first person on Mars!

So what’s up for grabs in the Zero Gravity Raffle?

The prize is an all-expenses-paid trip from Ireland to the US for a weightless Zero-G Experience with the Zero G Corporation. Tickets cost €22.50 and we’re only selling 999 tickets, so the odds are much better than the Lotto!

Each ticket has a unique number, and a place for you to write a name, so you can even buy a ticket and give it as a nice present to someone. However, the raffle is only open to over 18’s for health and safety reasons.

‘We’re only selling 999 raffle tickets, so the odds are much better than the Lotto!’

Tickets are available up to 29 January 2019 and a public draw will take place on 31 January. We shall then contact the purchaser of the winning raffle ticket to tell them the good news!

How does Zero G Corporation create the ‘in-space’ experience?

A zero-gravity flight is a plane ride that recreates the feeling of weightlessness, similar to what astronauts feel like in space, and Zero Gravity Corporation operates regular zero-gravity experience flights. Their experience includes 15 top loops – which means that, once in the air, the winner will have the chance to experience weightlessness 15 times!

If you watch the music video ‘Upside Down and Inside Out’ by OK Go, that video was entirely filmed in zero gravity and will give you an idea of the fun things that the winner can do on a zero-gravity flight.

What will the money from this fundraiser support?

The money shall go toward funding Irish students who wish to pursue a space-related course to help them on the road to their dream space career. We’ve been helping Irish students attend ISU since 2016, and money raised from this raffle will allow us to support more students. We really hope it is successful so that we can make it an annual event and continue to support Irish students that want to pursue their space dreams.

We also hope the raffle will inspire people that the sky is not the limit!

Find out more about the Zero Gravity Raffle at Inspirespace.com and follow Inspire Space on Facebook and Twitter for updates.