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The InvestigatorsRTÉ One, Thursday 11.05pm

Programme 4: Ireland in Space

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Space - the final frontier! As mankind prepares for more and more missions into unexplored parts of the universe, the European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe's gateway to 'beyond'. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space continues throughout the 21st Century. It may come as a surprise to viewers to learn that Irish nvestigators are fulfilling a number of valuable key roles in this field.

Mercury Mission - Donagh O Malley, at the Tyndall Institute, has come up with a new material which he hopes will be selected for use on ESA's planned 2013 mission to Mercury. His material has been proved to withstand immense heat and therefore to be capably of protecting the craft from heat and radiation. As we join him he's completed the tests of Phase I and is waiting to hear if his results stand up and if funding will be approved for Phase II.

Radfet - Based in the Tyndall Insitute in Cork, Brendan O'Neill and his team have created a device which can be placed beside the electronics on satellites which then measure radiation. It will be vital as it will determine when radiation levels will become critical and will help Europe to secure its telecommunications networks going forward. In an incredible unforeseen spin-off this technology has been adopted by cancer treatment specialists in the US to improve the regulation and efficiency of radiation dosage for cancer patients. We plan to interview a top cancer specialist in Sloane Kettering - the pre-eminent cancer research hospital in the world.

Integral project- It's said that only 4% of the universe is actually visible. Lorraine Hanlon of UCD is part of the team which developed the OMC - an optical monitoring camera which is currently working on the Integral satellite in space at the moment. It is being used to photograph and map the outer reaches of our solar system. This is truly the stuff of Star Trek as she explains the impact of seeing a Gama Ray burst. This is an event that because of the huge distances in space actually happened millions of years ago and until recently had never been captured on film. Similarly while before we would have expected to see a small number of black holes in our Galaxy she is also thrilled to have found a spine of 400 black holes which were previously unknown. Filming for this sequence has taken place in Dublin & Madrid.

Lorraine Hanlon
Lorraine Hanlon