Dan Tani, who blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) on board the shuttle Discovery last month, wished his parents-in-law, Larry and Mary Egan, the very best as they attended the opening of Cosmos at the Castle, the final element of the €7.5 million Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork.
It was hoped to complete a live link up with Mr Tani, who is married to the Egans’ daughter Jane, during the opening ceremony.
But guests were instead shown recorded footage of him performing a space walk last week.
“I’d like to say hello to my friends and family in Ireland, and especially all those in Kinsale,” Mr Tani said.
Mr and Mrs Egan watched alongside Enterprise Minister Micheal Martin as stunning images of Ireland from space were screened.
Blackrock Castle Observatory, and its interactive visitor centre, is a joint venture between Cork City Council, Cork Institute of Technology and a private benefactor.
Scientists are using the observatory for cutting-edge research.
But the state-of-the-art exhibition centre is aimed at the general public.
It highlights recent discoveries of extreme life forms on Earth and their implications for life in space.
It also invites interactive debate on mankind’s ultimate place in the Universe.
It was also announced yesterday that the visitor centre has just become the first Irish themed visitor attraction to win an award for outstanding achievement from TEA, the world association for themed attractions.
The city’s Lord Mayor and city manager will accept the award in Los Angeles next year.
“We need to cultivate an attitude that values scientific curiosity and endeavour in the same way and we must promote a more positive attitude towards the sciences through our schools, third level institutions and through projects such as the Blackrock Observatory,” Mr Martin said.
The observatory’s principal scientist, Dr Niall Smith, said the facility addresses several objectives set out in the Government’s Strategy for Science, including increasing the number of PhD students, and developing programmes to encourage second-level students to become more interested in science and engineering.
Blackrock Castle Observatory is open to the public Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 5pm. Family tickets cost €16.