Space enthusiasts countrywide will descend on Limerick on Tuesday 16th September to get a rare audience with one of just 24 people to have flown to the moon. Al Worden, who was one of 19 astronauts selected by NASA in 1966, served as a command module pilot for the historic Apollo 15 (26th July – 7th August 1971) and is one of the icons of space travel.
His visit to Ireland for a lecture at LIT next Tuesday, and a dinner at the Pavilion UL on 17th September, is all down to one self-confessed Limerick space fanatic, Paul Ryan from Ballybricken, who, completely off his own bat, managed to connect Worden and secure him for the two special events.
Paul explained that he had a double motivation for getting Worden to come to Ireland: his life-long fascination with space, combined with it being the top item on a bucket list he devised after having two cardiac incidents at the age of 37. “I have had a fascination with space since I was a young boy and dreamed then of becoming an astronaut, but that never happened, of course. I did get to live in the States later on and went to the NASA locations so they were huge moments.
“The real trigger for doing this, however, was I had two cardiac incidents four years ago and our second child was born at that time also. I had my own brush with destiny, as it were, and I just thought what is my legacy? I was literally sitting in my hospital bed thinking what am I leaving behind? What have I done that is truly different?
“People ask me why, if I was going to do something like this, would I not bring it to Dublin, but a lot of big events happen in Dublin and here on the western half of the country there’s not much opportunity to go to something like this. Apart from that, Ireland has strong links in the area of space and astronomy.
“There’s magical stuff going on in LIT over recent years as it had an experiment on the last Space Shuttle mission and has another going to the International Space Station shortly – so Al will be well at home there. Shannon Airport was a designated emergency airport for the Space Shuttle programme, so I am delighted he is arriving in through there.
“Our history goes back much further as people interested in the galaxies flocked to Birr Castle from all over the world between 1845 and 1914 when it had the largest telescope in the world and it is still today a huge visitor attraction.
“Al Worden is a huge name. He is for space enthusiasts what perhaps David Attenborough is for nature lovers. Indeed, space exploration doesn’t have to be your interest at all because he has a captivating human story to tell. The way I look at it is I am not huge into golf but if Jack Nicklaus came to Limerick to do a speech, I would really want to be there for it, just to hear someone who has done something exceptional in his life.”
The newly formed Shannon Group plc is supporting the event and Patrick Edmond, Managing Director of one of its business units, the International Aviation Services Centre, said that in their own individual ways Al Worden and Paul Ryan are examples to us all. “Al Worden and others across space exploration have shown there are really no limits to what mankind can achieve and that is something we can all take inspiration from. Similarly, Paul Ryan has also shown that you can really achieve pretty much anything you put your mind to. He is a man who had his own dream, to bring a world-famous astronaut to Limerick and just went out and did it, so he deserves huge congratulations on that.
“It’s a huge opportunity for people across the country and beyond to listen to an icon of space travel and we are delighted to be supporting Paul in this amazing endeavour.”
Al Worden will fly into Shannon Airport on the afternoon of Monday 15th September to wind up a European tour of talks in Limerick. The LIT lecture costs €25 for adults and €15 for children, with the Pavilion UL dinner event €60 per person.
Tickets for these special events can be booked through the LIT Millennium Theatre for the lecture and Eventbrite for the dinner event. Full details available at www.sharelearninspire.com .