A new partnership between the Irish Research Council and the European Space Agency (ESA) will give Irish science and engineering graduates a chance to make their mark in the field of space exploration.

Details of the partnership were announced today by Dr. Eucharia Meehan, Director of the Irish Research Council, and Jan Woerner, Director General of the ESA.

Over the next five years, the ESA will host up to 10 Irish trainees in its centres across Europe, providing opportunities to work on projects covering topics such as human spaceflight, the launch and operation of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science and telecommunication, and designing launch vehicles.

Holders of postgraduate qualifications in science and engineering will be able to apply for a place on the prestigious training programme through a competitive process run annually by the Irish Research Council.

Successful applicants will receive a stipend from the Council to cover living and accommodation costs for the duration of the traineeship.

All trainees will be assigned an ESA tutor to support, supervise and guide them throughout their traineeship.

Announcing details of the partnership today, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity for science and engineering graduates. The European Space Agency has responsibility for drawing up and implementing the European space programme. Its work is focused on finding out more about Earth, its immediate space environment, our solar system and the universe. It also develops satellite-based technologies and services, promotes European industries, and works closely with space organisations outside Europe.

“Space exploration is one of the most thrilling and attractive sectors for science and engineering graduates. We are delighted to be embarking on this partnership, which will allow Irish graduates in these sectors to get involved in cutting-edge space research projects on the international stage.”

Jan Woerner, Director General of the European Space Agency, remarked: “I am delighted to be in Dublin today to sign this traineeship agreement between the European Space Agency and the Irish Research Council. Ireland is a committed and active participant in ESA activities, achieving economic benefits, innovation and growth through its membership. The agreement being signed today represents a further step in this strong relationship.

“This agreement will provide opportunities for young men and women from the Irish R&D community to come to ESA sites around Europe and collaborate on exciting space projects and innovative technology developments with our experienced, top-class staff. We look forward to welcoming Irish trainees over the coming years.”

Commenting on the signing of the agreement, John Halligan TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Research, said: “I am very pleased that Ireland’s relationship with the ESA has received a further boost today with the signing of this bilateral traineeship agreement with the Irish Research Council. The opportunity for young Irish researchers to apply their knowledge in cutting-edge projects at ESA’s superb facilities will be immensely valuable for their development and career. From Ireland’s perspective, providing early-stage opportunities such as these, funded by the Irish Research Council, will ensure that we continue to support a pipeline of skilled talent to take Ireland forward in its contribution to space research, development and innovation.”

Further information on the work of the Irish Research Council and the ESA is available at www.research.ie and http://www.esa.int/ESA.

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