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HEATHER LYNN’S HABITAT: Bajan scientists plan to launch ‘space mission’


HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

HEATHER LYNN’S HABITAT:  Bajan scientists plan to launch ‘space mission’

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THE BARBADOS ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY is setting its sights on the sky in more ways than one.

Not just content to train its high-powered telescopes at the planets and stars, the Harry Bayley Observatory-based group is looking to launch a probe into the mid-level atmosphere later this year.

If it succeeds, said the society’s director Ricardo Small, not only should it excite a generation of local scientists, but it will make Barbados the first Third World country to achieve such a feat.

Small was speaking to Heather-Lynn’s Habitat as the observatory hosted its open day last Saturday.

ricardo-small“We understand the Barbados Astronomical Society and astronomy are not widely appreciated. Therefore, I have conceptualised a project called Project Skyreach which we will be revealing in all of its entirety in the next couple weeks.”

He said it would involve sending a probe into lower space from Barbados. The Society was in talks with a number of Government agencies and other entities about the project. There had been two project meetings so far.

“It will be termed an astro-meteorological experiment. During the ascent, the probe will gather meteorological data at the apex of target altitude, which will be 25 miles in space. We will be shooting the moon, we will be shooting Venus, we will be looking at the curvature of the Earth, we will be looking at the sun and that will be telemetered back to Earth. We will then be guiding the craft back to a landing here in Barbados,” he explained.

Small revealed the society was looking to launch the probe during a specific time window – the hurricane season – because the pressure gradient was slacker which would prevent horizontal drift, and the winds were calmer both at the surface level and mid-altitude.

“We also have to launch when the moon is in the last quarter and when Venus is in the morning sky. If all of these things come together, because we have to do testing first, this is going to be an exciting time for us.

“If we are successful, we will be the first country in the Caribbean to be able to do it. We will be the first country in the region to do it. Only a few countries have attempted it so far – the United States, Australia, South Africa and Sweden with varying successes.”

He continued: “We will be going for the record. This will put Barbados on the map if we are successful. We will be the first developing country to be able to do something like this and do it successfully.”

The estimated cost of the project is between $5 000 and $7 000. “Remarkably cheap,” he said, adding this was a testimony to the race of technology.

“This is our own space mission. This is our own space project. Project Skyreach is an attempt to excite a whole generation of people into this stuff and, if we are successful in that, we can say well, we have done well.”

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