Irish scientist Niamh Shaw planning for space trip

She has lived in a simulated Mars habitat in the US

Irish scientist Niamh Shaw planning for space trip

Dr Niamh Shaw | Image:

Irish engineer and scientist Dr Niamh Shaw went to see 'Star Wars' in Carlow as a child - and she decided then and there she would become an astronaut.

She is interested in creating science events and promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers.

Niamh is passionate about all things space - and plans to get there within the next eight years.

She told Bobby's Late Breakfast on Newstalk why this is so fascinating to her.

"I think it's the next frontier... We had the Antarctic at the turn of the 20th century and I think we're at the phase now where we started in the late 1960s with all the different moon landings and then we stopped.

"And I think Mars is the next frontier."

But Dr Shaw thinks she may have to be an astronaut in a roundabout way: "I'm not sure I'm going to get it 'the normal way' through space agencies and stuff.

"They're looking for people either with flight training... or degrees from really reputable colleges like the Ivy League ones and very high marks - I don't meet any of that criteria.

"What's beginning to happen - and thankfully, it's great - is that people understand the merit of having an artist in a team and in a crew, and I think the space agencies are great from embracing that as well.

"The more frequently we go up and down to the International Space Station - and we get back to the moon and then we get to Mars - the more I believe that culturally we have to start representing that back down to people on Earth.

"So then they'll need artists to be part of the crew, so that's where I see my place".

Dr Shaw lived in a simulated Mars habitat in the US for two weeks: "I wanted to see how that would test me and how it would push me.

"I showered once the whole time I was there. You become obsessed with your water levels and obviously the food - and I was kind of concerned about the level of lack of privacy."

"What I realised out of that was it's really all about teamwork and your crew - and you can do anything if you're surrounded by the right people.

"So it's really given me an appetite to go on longer isolation studies".

And she says this is one dream she is holding on to.

"I'm a women in my 40s who's now trying to fulfil a childhood dream... I think everybody understands what that's like, and it makes them questions those unfulfilled dreams as children.

"At what stage do they manage to let that go - or did they ever let it go? Because when I remembered mine, I couldn't let it go".