EIRSAT-1 Space Poetry

Sharing the same sky, you and I, wherever feet are anchored.

In a little while, a surprisingly small box of electronics and sensors will be jettisoned from a rocket and launched into orbit.  It is Ireland’s first satellite:  EIRSAT-1.  On one end of that CubeSat, there is a base plate with what appears to be an image of an octopus or a flower; in fact, this shape is a poem, with each tentacle made up of words created by a group of second-level students from diverse backgrounds all over the country, with the help of JCSP Librarians, UCD academics, and MOLI (the Museum of Literature Ireland).

Engraving of the poem on the EIRSAT-1 Antenna Deployment Module outer cover by UCD Artist-in-Residence Emer O Boyle

The poem is called All Ways Home and it was curated by poets from UCD along with the students in probably the most difficult manner imaginable—over Zoom during lockdown.  This weird period of isolation and fear gave rise to a poem about home and what that means to our students. 

All I want is the delicious scent, the dark blue muddy shoes and ruined grass of starlight, home

At a recent event in UCD to showcase the satellite and the works it has inspired—the poem and some amazing artwork created by students from JCSP schools all over Ireland as part of a corresponding Space Art competition—we got to meet the scientists involved in the satellite and talk to them about their work, we saw the real satellite in its cleanroom environment with the poem attached, we heard speeches from the Minister for Business, Employment & Retail, and we met the top scientists and poets involved.

A highlight was the first and exclusive screening of the animated film that has been created to go along with the poem.  It was voiced by the students involved and animated by Alan Dunne from NCAD.  This colourful and imaginative short film will be released later this year.

As for our school, CBS James Street, our student Megha, who was in 2nd year when this project started and is now in Transition Year, this is a fantastic opportunity.  How many teenagers can say that their thoughts were put into a collaborative poem, laser etched onto a satellite, printed large onto posters for an event, and then sent into orbit around the earth?  In a speech she gave about the project, she said:

“I remember a saying that was said on the first Zoom calls: ‘Space is not far, it’s just hard’. So, to everyone who is a part of this satellite project, I look up to you with lots of admiration and inspiration.”

Along with the students involved in the project, she recognised her own voice in the words of the poem: “Strawberry moon in the cloudless blue-black mystic”, which is the image selected by the event organisers for one of the posters.  When the satellite is orbiting and one end of it is pointing outwards into the unknown of space and gathering all its scientific data on gamma rays and other space phenomena, the poem on the other side will always point towards earth, towards home.

I look up.  I see stars.  They live forever inside me

Lorna Vogelsang | JCSP Librarian, CBS James’s Street, Dublin

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