SSP17: Welcome to Space University

After weeks of preparation and fundraising, I’m finally getting settled in at Cork and preparing to start the Space Studies Program.

My flight over here was short and surprisingly smooth. I flew out of Bristol Airport; I was joined by another participant who was travelling from Taunton, just a few miles away from me! I flew across in a small propeller-driven plane and expected a bumpier ride, as I anticipated we would be flying at a lower altitude than jets; fortunately I barely noticed anything except for a few bumps on the descent into Cork. Once we arrived we were picked up by the family of another participant for the short run to the University, where we registered, collected some goodies, took care of some paperwork, and set up our IT accounts. We then headed over to our accommodation, got settled in and met some more participants.

A welcome dinner was held that evening at the University, where an enormous illuminated moon has been set up. After dinner the staff welcomed us with a few speeches, then we each went up to the stage to briefly introduce ourselves. I had considered discussing my Aspergers there but in the end I bottled it… I had posted a message about it in the private SSP17 Facebook group, however, and a few people have already complimented me on it so at least some of the attendees are aware. We ended the night with some wine, followed by a trip down to a nearby pub for more drinks and a great party.

Today has been comprised mainly of introductory lectures but the pace will pick up rapidly very soon: we have to choose our team projects by tomorrow lunchtime! For today, though, we have something more important to attend to: the opening ceremony. This is a formal event that will be webast online: go to http://bit.ly/SSP17live to watch.

My thanks are due to the European Space Agency, which provided a scholarship of €12,000 covering two thirds of the tuition; to Reaction Engines, and to Alan Bond in particular, for contributing a further €5,000 toward the fees and for ongoing encouragement and moral support; to my Dad, who has lent me about £1,500 to cover the remainder of the fees and to keep me afloat during the course despite not having much to share himself; and to those who made a contribution to my GoFundMe campaign, which covered the cost of the flights here and back.

If you feel like contributing, my fundraising page is still open and I will welcome any contributions. Just go to https://www.gofundme.com/send-me-to-space-university.