Moon trip is on the cards

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IT is ‘certainly possible’ the Isle of Man will land on the Moon, says NASA astronaut Nicole Stott.

She was one of five crew members of the last voyage of the space shuttle Discovery who were in the island this week.

VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY: Four of the six crew from space shuttle Discovery's last mission were in Douglas on Wednesday (July 6) to speak to the island's media. Pictured from left; Nicole Stott, Eric Boe, Steve Bowen and Michael Barratt. PICTURE: Gary Myers

VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY: Four of the six crew from space shuttle Discovery's last mission were in Douglas on Wednesday (July 6) to speak to the island's media. Pictured from left; Nicole Stott, Eric Boe, Steve Bowen and Michael Barratt. PICTURE: Gary Myers

Last year the Isle of Man was named as one of the top five nation contenders to launch the next manned mission to the Moon.

Commenting on the report she said: ‘I think it is certainly possible.

‘What’s clear to me about the island is it really does come across as, and I think it is, a very progressive place.

‘Businesses are realising, space businesses especially, that this is a place where you can open up opportunities for yourself.’

OVER THE MOON: Conault Bedford, aged three, meets astronaut Nicole Stott at Mooragh Park, in Ramsey

OVER THE MOON: Conault Bedford, aged three, meets astronaut Nicole Stott at Mooragh Park, in Ramsey

On both of her space missions, Nicole has taken items from the island, including a piece of turf from Tynwald Hill.

She said she was a ‘big fan’ of Davy Knowles – listening to his music in space.

Nicole, who is married to Manxman Chris Stott, said it was important to her to be an ambassador for the island: ‘I already felt like I had a connection here and the fact I have flown twice and I was able to take something that represents the island on both flights was important to me.

‘I know it meant something to the people here too and I think the more we can share what’s going on in space with people here on the planet the better.’

The final Discovery mission was launched to the International Space Station in February.

The most-travelled orbiter carried a crew of six astronauts and one human-like Robonaut, along with a new permanent storeroom and supplies for the ISS.

Eric Boe, pilot on the 12-day mission, was previously a fighter pilot in the US Air Force.

He said that at lift-off it felt like ‘a small elephant has come out and sat on your chest as you climb into orbit’.

It takes just eight-and-a-half minutes from lift-off to orbit.

One of the best things about being in space, he said, was the view: ‘The Earth is alive and there’s a glow the pictures can’t capture.

‘The Earth is a spaceship flying through the universe, so it’s amazing to see that from a different perspective.’

Michael Barrett said he had ‘mixed’ feelings about the end of NASA’s space shuttle programme: ‘We are going to miss the ship because it is so iconic of human space flight and we are definitely going to miss the capability to carry six or seven people and a huge amount of cargo, become a laboratory along with the spaceship and so many things.’

He said: ‘It’s time to move on to a next generation spacecraft. The shuttle can do a lot of things but it can’t leave the Earth’s orbit. So if we want to go to the Moon, to Mars or to asteroids we must have another ship.’

Steven Bowen was a last minute addition to the final Discovery crew after another crew member was injured a month before lift-off.

He said the feeling of weightlessness was fantastic: ‘It never gets old floating in space.’

He said in spare moments astronauts like to play ‘stupid astronauts tricks’ including ‘playing with food, tumbling and bouncing around’.

‘I really like trying to see how still I can be for so long, without touching the walls.’

During their visit to the island they attended the Queenie Festival, in Port St Mary and unveiled a plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight in the island in Noble’s Park, Douglas.

They enjoyed lunch in Mooragh Park as part of the Ramsey Week celebrations before being guests at the Tynwald Hill ceremony in St John’s,

The following day they gave a presentation to secondary school students alongside Professor Brian Cox in the Villa Marina, Douglas.

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