Armstrong inspired ‘a generation of Irish scientists and engineers’

One Ireland’s leading experts on space exploration has said Neil Armstrong inspired an entire generation of scientists and engineers when he took his one small step in July 1969.

Dr Niall Smith, founding director of Blackrock Castle Observatory and head of research at Cork Institute of Technology, said the world of science and exploration had lost a true icon with Armstrong’s death.

“It was an amazing event,” he said of Armstrong’s moonwalk following the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon on July 20, 1969. “It was something which people felt you couldn’t do, but then when it was achieved, there was this sense that anything was possible.

“I was seven at the time and I was inspired by him. It got me interested in astronomy and inspired me to do my degree and PhD in science.

“Blackrock Castle probably wouldn’t have an observatory now if it wasn’t for the likes of Armstrong because myself and a number of my contemporaries, who have been involved in that project, were inspired by him.”

Blackrock Castle Observatory, which opened in 2007, is a science centre and observatory where members of the public can take time out to look at and learn more about the stars.

The observatory even has connections to telescopes abroad, which means that when the skies are cloudy at home — a fairly common occurrence this summer due to dismal weather — people can still stargaze.

The science centre runs numerous workshops and exhibitions aimed at children. Dr Smith said they were trying to get more children excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.



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