People's Republic of Cork flag to orbit 400km above Earth

Paolo Nespoli: Bringing Cork flags to the space station.

Two Cork flags are set to boldly go where no rebel county flags have gone before.

The blood and bandage of the self-styled People’s Republic, and the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) flag will blast off tomorrow on board a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit some 400km above Earth.

It may be one small step for veteran Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who has agreed to carry the 14cm by 7cm flags on the five-month mission.

But it will be one giant leap for space experts at CIT, who have been hosting the International Space University’s Summer of Space Programme this month.

CIT’s head of research, Niall Smith, who is helping host the Space University event, said the flags’ flight was organised as a thank you to Cork for hosting it.

“We’ve been saying for some time that Cork has the intention of becoming a national hub for space activity — to help businesses use space to help their business,” said Dr Smith.

“Seeing two Cork flags going to the ISS is symbolic of that intent — a symbol that Cork, and CIT, is taking this seriously.”

He said it will also help CIT foster an interest in science, technology, electronics, and maths subjects among young people as part of their various outreach programmes.

Several delegates are expected to gather at the CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory at 4pm tomorrow to watch the launch live via a Nasa link from Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan.

Mr Nespoli, who spent 159 days in space in 2010, will be making his third visit to the ISS on this mission alongside ISS mission commander, US astronaut Colonel Randolph Bresnik, and Russian cosmonaut, ISS flight engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy. It is hoped that Mr Nespoli will get clearance during the mission to unfurl the flags and pose for photos as they orbit Earth at speeds of some 17,150 miles an hour — five miles a second.

Meanwhile, minister of state John Halligan will switch on the largest radio telescope in the world today.

The I-LOFAR telescope at Birr Castle in Co Offaly will become part of the €150m International LOFAR (LOw Frequency ARray) network of radio telescopes across Europe.

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