Have you let your impossible dreams go? This should inspire you not to
Dr Niamh Shaw during her recent zero-G flight, with a Lottie Doll in hand. Image: Niamh Shaw

Have you let your impossible dreams go? This should inspire you not to

1 Sep 2017

Dr Niamh Shaw has been dreaming of being an astronaut since she was eight years old, and now she’s determined to get to space, no matter what.

Engineer, scientist and performer Dr Niamh Shaw is the perhaps one of the greatest embodiments of never giving up on a dream, no matter what you think people will say.

At Inspirefest 2017, Shaw spoke on stage about how, despite having many degrees and moving on to a career as a performer, she felt something was missing from her life.

That was until she embarked upon a project detailing all of the major life decisions she decided not to take, which took her down an unexpected path.

That path led to the realisation that her dream as an eight-year-old to be an astronaut never materialised, and that realisation hurt the most.

This spurred her on to initiate a complete overhaul of her life. While she would continue her work as a performer and science communicator, Shaw was now more determined than ever to get to space.

In just a few years, Shaw has started to build a checklist for what she needs to do to get to space, including some activities that bring her as close to being out of this world as possible, without actually doing so.

Among them was joining the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), hosted by The Mars Society, which seeks volunteers to put themselves in a simulated station to experience what life on Mars would be like.

But her latest adventure was one that would test her physical abilities like no other as she flew aboard a so-called ‘vomit comet’.

Reduced gravity aircraft – as they are officially known – have been used by both astronauts to train ahead of a trip into space, and enthusiasts with the right amount of money or backing to experience weightlessness for themselves.

In Shaw’s case, the stars aligned after two years of trying, and some good fortune with the ticket price meant that she was able to experience it for herself.

Niamh with cosmonaut space suit

Shaw with a cosmonaut space suit at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre. Image: Niamh Shaw

‘It’s my dream and I’m going to achieve it’

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, Shaw said that despite her spending the whole time with a smile on her face, the 45 seconds or so of weightlessness really takes it out of you physically.

“I was exhausted afterwards,” she admitted, “I was covered in bruises that I had no idea where they came from and, because you have no idea of what is up and what is down, it’s really hard to manoeuvre yourself.”

She added that it gave her perspective on the life of an astronaut as she realised the enormous amount of concentration required.

With one flight under her belt, Shaw is determined to not make it her last and said she hopes to undertake another one next year.

It’s a surefire sign that there is no shaking Shaw’s ambition to be the first Irish person in space. As she said herself on stage at Inspirefest: “It’s my dream and I’m going to achieve it.”

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Ultra Early Bird Tickets for Inspirefest 2018 are on sale now!

Colm Gorey
By Colm Gorey

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic. He joined in January 2014 and covered AI, IoT, science and anything that will get us to Mars quicker. When not trying to get his hands on the latest gaming release, he can be found lost in a sea of Wikipedia articles on obscure historic battles and countries that don't exist any more, or watching classic Simpsons episodes far too many times to count.

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