Prof Susan McKenna-Lawlor to name the Irish space project announced at Inspirefest 2015

13 Aug 2015

Susan McKenna Lawlor first revealed plans for an ‘Irish space race’ at Inspirefest 2015. Photo by Conor McCabe Photography

The naming of Ireland’s first-ever space project will be made under a meteor shower this weekend, with Inspirefest 2015 speaker Professor Susan McKenna-Lawlor speaking at Astronomy Ireland’s 25th annual barbecue.

The Star-B-Q – a name we can all agree on as excellent – is in Roundwood, Co Wicklow and will offer a perfect view of the stunning Perseid shower that has been raining above our heads these past few nights.

McKenna-Lawlor is what Astronomy Ireland’s David Moore calls “Irish space royalty” and, with her extensive background, no one could argue with that.

Founder and MD of Space Technology Ireland Ltd (STIL), McKenna-Lawlor has overseen projects that have built instrumentation launched by the European Space Agency, NASA and the Chinese, Indian and Russian Space Agencies.

One of STIL’s most notable projects was with the Rosetta Mission, which saw a spacecraft chase down a comet for years, before landing a probe (Philae) on its surface.

From Russia, with love

Such is McKenna-Lawlor’s prominence in the field of space exploration, that her recently announced Irish space project will, apparently, be launched free of charge by the Russian Space Agency, dramatically reducing the projected costs of €5m.

McKenna-Lawlor originally revealed her plans for an Irish space project at Inspirefest earlier this year, catching most of us off guard with the incredibly understated opening line, “Let me just float an idea out there.”

McKenna-Lawlor then stunned the audience with her bold proposal, but the amazement was quickly overtaken by excitement and support as the very real possibility of an Irish space project began to materialise before their very eyes.

More than just a name

Other highlights at the Saturday (15 August) Star-B-Q will include a talk from Leo Enright – who also spoke alongside McKenna-Lawlor at Inspirefest – and Moore, a leading astronomer who will be using a super sounding laser to help inform guests on what they are seeing.

“It’s great. It can travel 40 miles into the sky so we can shine it towards stars,” he said. “It would go further, but the air stops at that distance.” Damn science.

The Perseid meteor shower is halving by the day, so Saturday is the last night people will get to see an abundance of meteors.

But, given they will also hear the name of Ireland’s first-ever space project, it will probably best the sightings of last night and tonight.

Oh, and if you are wondering why you only saw about four meteors every 15 minutes in the city last night, compared to dozens in the countryside, this should explain why.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic