Limerick researcher could be first Irishwoman in space

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

A UNIVERSITY of Limerick engineer is aiming to go where few have gone before - to space, if she gets enough votes from the public.

A UNIVERSITY of Limerick engineer is aiming to go where few have gone before - to space, if she gets enough votes from the public.

Dr Norah Patten, 29, a researcher on a European Space Agency project at UL, has just entered a competition launched by Buzz Aldrin to win a place on a space shuttle - and the chance to view Earth from 103km above ground.

After visiting NASA at the age of 11, she said if she won it would be the “realisation of a childhood dream”. She would also claim the honour of becoming the first Irish woman to reach space.

“To think that I can actually apply for something like this is amazing. The whole space world has changed so much in the last couple of years. It’s such an exciting time to be involved in this area. I’d be delighted to have this chance. It’s hard to describe what it would be like, because I’ve been so passionate about space for such a long time,” Dr Patten told the Limerick Chronicle.

The competition is being run by Lynx and it is giving 22 people from across the globe a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Earth from space. The winners of national votes around the world will be sent to the Global Space Camp and only the best will win a place.

There are currently some 40 Irish applicants for the programme, with the number of hopefuls continuing to rise, and Dr Patten, from Ballina, Co Mayo, was in 7th place at the time of writing, with over 400 votes.

Based in UL for the past 11 years, where she undertook her undergraduate and postgraduate studies in aeronautical engineering, she is also the chair of the space management and business department at the International Space University. She recently travelled to the Kennedy Space Center on a nine-week Space Studies Programme run by the International Space University and hosted at NASA and the Florida Institute of Technology.

County Limerickman Brian Stokes, 28, who is currently studying economics and history in University College Cork, is also hoping to follow in the footsteps of Buzz Aldrin.

“I’ve always wanted to go into space. I will live a disappointed life if I don’t,” said the Oola native. He joked that it would also be best story ever to regale in the pub. “I’d be sorted for the next 40 years.”

The voting remains open until April 30. Some 125 people from Ireland and the UK will later be tested academically and physically during a two-day live event, with only four selected to go through to the global space camp.