Fermoy student helping Nasa get to Mars

A CORK secondary school student has returned from the NASA space centre in the US following a two-week visit carrying out mock space-related missions.

Oran O’Flynn from St Colman's College in Fermoy was selected as this year’s NASA United Space School candidate, which took place in Houston, Texas. 

For more than a decade St Colman’s has sent a fifth-year physics student to NASA where they collaborate with other students from all over the world.

Such missions are important to NASA in terms of the training of future space engineers and scientists, but also in utilising youthful ways of thinking around problems, free from the constraints of politics and tradition. 

For the past number of years, the theme of the school has been the conquest of Mars, the logistics of getting there, the problems of habitation, and potentially the colonisation of the red planet. 

Oran came through a tough selection process involving an assignment and interview, and with the assistance of the St Colman’s Past Pupil’s Union and Parents’ Association, found himself on a flight to the deep south of Texas.

Oran was chosen to be part of the Maroon team, which was tasked with the landing and taking off from Mars as well as the generation of fuel supplies large enough to make a mission viable. 

Some of the major tasks were food production, protection from radiation and the physical and mental well-being of the astronauts.

As well as the rigours of work students attended lectures to aid them with their mission, one of which was delivered by Everett Gibson, the first man to draw water from a Mars rock sample. 

Oran also had the opportunity to tour the Johnson Space Centre and observe the neutral buoyancy lab and a replica of the International Space Station.

The trip to Texas can potentially be life-changing. Quite a number of past participants from St Colman’s have gone on to study science and engineering, and two, in particular, are currently studying aeronautical engineering in Queen’s University Belfast. 

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