Space Week: Human limits, gravitational waves and beekeeping on Mars

It’s an opportunity for schools and the wider public to explore and engage with this incredible Universe that we are all part of


Whether it’s a solar eclipse, Cassini’s stunning images of Saturn and its moons or humans floating around in the International Space Station, space has the power to capture our attention and imagination.

This year Space Week (October 4th-10th) will harness that power to help us learn about the science, technology, engineering, maths and humanity involved in space phenomena and exploration.

The aim is to increase awareness of the Universe, explains Clair McSweeney, general manager of Cork Institute of Technology Blackrock Castle Observatory, which is organising Space Week with the support of Science Foundation Ireland.

“There’s a big drive to increase people’s awareness of the beauty of the Universe,” says McSweeney. “It is an opportunity for people in schools and the wider public to explore and engage with this incredible Universe that we are all part of.

Look to the skies

Numerous events will run during Space Week, including talks on pushing human limits to the extreme, by former Deputy Administrator of Nasa Prof Dava Newman and designer Gui Trotti, who has worked for Nasa on lunar bases, Mars vehicles and the International Space Station.

Dublin City University will host public talks by its researchers about their fields of interest, including exoplanets, black holes and gravitational waves. The talks at last year’s event were “out of this world”, according to Dr John Regan, a researcher at DCU’s Centre for Astrophysics and Relativity.

“This year promises to be even better and we’re going to include some cool new talks on recent gravitational wave breakthroughs,” says Regan. “Did you know that the collision of two black holes observed was more powerful than the output of every single star in the Universe? Come along to find out more.”

The European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO) Ireland in association CIT BCO will provide resources for special courses for teachers about engineering in space, there will be workshops for kids and with the help of online resources you can build your own models of a spacecraft, a star lantern and even the International Space Station from everyday objects.

Social media alerts will remind us to look to the skies for moonrise, sunset and the passage of the International Space Station, and a campaign will encourage us to look for objects in the sky and record where light pollution makes that more challenging.

Bees on Mars

Irish engineer, scientist and performer Dr Niamh Shaw will unveil a new theatre piece during Space Week, which looks to a future where humans have set foot on Mars.

Diary of a Martian Beekeeper will premiere in Cork and sees Shaw, who is artist in residence at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, working on the red planet in 2036.

“My character’s mission is to prepare for the arrival of bees, because that will give us a self-sustaining possibility of providing fruits,” says Shaw, who received support from SFI to develop the piece.

The performance will feature multimedia clips from astronauts and footage from Shaw’s time at the Mars Desert Research Station, a Mars simulation facility in Utah.

“While this role of bringing bees to Mars seems like a small one, it’s part of a much bigger picture and a shared goal,” says Shaw, who worked with Sarah Baxter on the play and who will host post-show discussions after some performances.

“I’m taking a very small human story to reflect the bigger story of how humans are working collectively to advance our exploration and understanding of space.”

Space Week runs from October 4th-10th, 2017. See