St Colman’s College student Kevin McCarthy was selected as the 2018 NASA United Space School candidate, which took place in July in Houston, Texas.
For over a decade now St Colman’s College Fermoy has sent a fifth-year physics student to the NASA headquarters where they collaborate for two weeks with students from all around the world in working on mock space-related missions.
Such missions are very 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 if the red planet.
Kevin, a native of Castleylons, came through a tough selection process involving assignments 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 heart of Texas.
Kevin’s primary focus was on the descent and ascent to/from the Martian surface, the design of both cargo and manned landers along with landing mechanisms and many other tasks such as fuel production on Mars, Earth communication in the Mars landing phase and crew life support systems on board.
Throughout the busy daily schedule, there were many guest speakers and lectures from professionals in the many fields of space and aeronautical engineering.
These offered a great insight into the jobs available in the industry while sharing information with the students which would be of use in their hypothetical mission.
Amongst the speakers was NASA astronaut Sunita Williams who spoke of her completion of the Boston marathon whilst in the International Space Station.
She offered the students key insights into the life and work of an astronaut, sharing her experiences of the NASA selection process and life aboard the Space Station.
Other speakers included fuel production experts and a highly specialised space toilet engineer.
At the end of two weeks of hard work and research, each team presented their final plans in front of a panel of esteemed NASA officials and board members.
While the students worked diligently for long hours of the day, there were many recreational and touring activities spread out through the two weeks.
A guided tour of the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center included visits to mission control, the neutral buoyancy lab, astronaut training centres and rocket warehouses
An opportunity such as this is truly a once in a life time experience that can be potentially life changing.
The experience has certainly galvanised Kevin’s ambition to study physics in university and like many previous St Colman’s students who have participated in the USS, he hopes one day to be working in the field of aeronautics and astrophysics.