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Stars in their eyes...

Young space fan Sam Bolton talks aliens, space holidays and life on Mars with scientist Dr Niamh Shaw


Dr Niamh Shaw.

Dr Niamh Shaw.

Dr Niamh Shaw chatting with Sam Bolton.

Dr Niamh Shaw chatting with Sam Bolton.


Dr Niamh Shaw.

Wannabe space traveller Sam Bolton met a kindred spirit in Dr Niamh Shaw because they both believe anything is possible.

Dr Shaw was part of a simulated Mars mission in the Utah Dessert Research Station, living for two weeks as if she was on Mars, she has written a book called Dream Big, has two degrees in engineering and emerges herself in all things space every day.

10-year-old Dubliner and dreamer Sam was over the moon to speak to the Irish engineer and scientist who is on massion to touch down anywhere but earth.

Will I ever go on holidays to space?

There is a big company called Bigalew and they have already put an inflatable extension on the International Space Station because they do genuinely want to establish a space hotel.

So, the International Space Station, it’s been going for 20 years now and there is talk that space agencies have used it as much as they can for research. There has been talk of converting the space station for wealthy people initially who can go and stay on Bigalew inflatable hotel but someday that could be for normal people too, so the answer is yes.

Do you think aliens exist?

There is a whole group of people who created an institute called SETI, which is the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence and they omit a message all the time into outer space to see if there is any intelligence species out there.

We now know there are other planets around us so that make you think that the likelihood that we are the only living creatures existing on this planet is highly unlikely, but they are so far away it is unlikely they will ever find us because they are so far away. If they did get a message from us it would be our ancestors who they would respond to.

How do you think you would feel if you ever touched down on Mars and would you listen to music or what would you do?

I think I’d love to ring my parents and say; ‘I’m here.’ but that would be a very difficult thing to do because there would be an 11- minute time gap, it takes that long for a message from Mars to get to Earth. I’d probably get a bit upset because it would be so overwhelming to finally get to do something I’ve always wanted to do.

We’d be incredibly weak because it would have taken at least seven months to get there so maybe after I had acclimatized I’d high five my crew mates.

Then I’d love to sit there all day and see the sun set and look at the night sky and see earth and maybe I’d wave to earth and maybe someone on earth would have a telescope so strong that they would see me and wave back. That’s what I would love.

  • Dr Niamh Shaw was speaking to Sam to launch the An Post Brain Busters programme, aimed at fifth class to second year students and puts numeracy and literacy at the centre of a fun-filled, educational challenge. The deadline for teachers to submit entries is the 17 November 2021. In December, qualifying teams for the national final, taking place in April 2022, will be chosen.

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