FOUR NASA Astronauts were the guests at the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Noble’s Park in Douglas, marking 100 years since the first powered flight on Manx soil.
Douglas Mayor Ritchie McNicholl was joined by Eric Boe, Nicole Stott, Steven Bowen and Michael Barrett, who were all crew members aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on its final mission in February 2011, as well as representatives from the North American Manx Association, Manx Aviation Preservation Society and ManSat.
The plaque, located between the pavilion and bandstand, commemorates 100 years since aviation pioneer Claude Graham-White’s visit as part of Douglas Corporation’s jubilee celebrations. On July 4, 1911, Graham-White and his Farman biplane was to race the Steam Packet flagship the Ben-my-Chree in a lap of the island. Windy weather scuppered the race, but that did not stop Graham-White flying several displays, using the recently opened Noble’s Park as an aerodrome, and making history in the process.
Mr McNicholl extended a warm Manx ‘cur Doolish ta failt erriu’ (Douglas welcomes you) to the American guests, before adding: ‘The people in the crowd present for that first powered flight could not have imagined that they were witnessing the first steps in the technology that would take man into space.
‘This visit by respected NASA astronauts will lend the growing space sector of our economy a great deal of credibility.’
Pilot for the Discovery mission, Eric Boe, said: ‘I see space travel as the ultimate aviation. The Isle of Man has a history developing aviation technology, notably ejector seats and precision components.’
Nicole Stott, wife of Manxman Chris, said it had been lovely to return to the island and return the Tynwald turf that she had taken into orbit aboard Discovery.
The plaque itself features the image of both the 1911 biplane and the Discovery shuttle, the inclusion of which proved a pleasant surprise for the honoured astronauts.