One giant leap for Manxkind

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ASTRONAUT Nicole Stott took a piece of Tywnald Hill into space.

The intergalactic Manx turf has been orbiting aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery while it was docked to the International Space Station.

The starbound sod was personally provided by President of Tynwald Noel Cringle to Nicole for her to take into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-133 to the International Space Station.

Nicole Stott is married to Manxman Chris Stott, boss of ManSat and the Isle of Man Government’s honorary representative to the ‘space community’.

On her last mission to space in August 2009, Nicole flew the Isle of Man flag and spoke live with some of the Isle of Man’s students via video – a first for the British Isles.

STS-133 was the final planned mission of Space Shuttle Discovery and was launched on February 24.

Nicole wished to fly something of great meaning to the Manx people during her second space visit.

The idea of flying a piece of Tynwald Hill came from Manxwoman Julia Cregeen. Given that Tynwald Hill is composed of soil from each of the 17 parishes in the Isle of Man, in effect this one piece represents the entire island.

It is especially significant, given Tynwald’s place in history as the oldest continuous parliament in the world, meeting since around 979AD.

Special permission to take a piece of the hill was granted by Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne MHK, working with Noel Cringle.

This special piece of Tynwald Hill will be returned to Tynwald now the Discovery has returned to Earth.

Mr Cringle said: ‘Only a few short years ago it would have been inconceivable to consider a link to space travel and the Isle of Man. Nicole is a marvellous ambassador for our island and it is with wonderment and pride that I recognise she has at her feet in space a unique piece of our island’s history.’

The mission also transported several items to the space station, such as the Permanent Multipurpose Module Leonardo, which is to be left permanently docked to one of the station’s ports.

In addition, the shuttle also carried the third of four logistics carriers to the ISS, as well as a humanoid robot called Robonaut. The mission is the 39th and final flight of Discovery and the 133rd flight of the Space Shuttle programme.

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