Belfast Telegraph

Local scientist working with Nasa

A Northern Ireland computer scientist is helping to revolutionise American space exploration.

Roy Sterritt is using automatic computing to make craft self-controlled, instead of mission control having to guide them at practically every turn. Swarms of small spaceships would replace single crafts.

Mr Sterritt and Nasa scientist Mike Hinchey have collaborated on the projects and US authorities granted the space agency two patents on the men's work.

The Jordanstown researcher was recently honoured for his pioneering work by Nasa in Maryland. "It was a marvellous feeling to be recognised publicly at such a high-profile event," he said.

"Nasa's recognition adds a whole new dimension to my activity at Ulster which I hope will develop further and lead to other innovative work that will make space exploration more secure."

He and Mr Hinchey devised programs that could make small robotic craft self-directing, self-controlling and self-destructing if their autonomous behaviour threatened the safety or aims of the mission.

Each received a Nasa Patent Application Award and a patent plaque at the prestigious annual Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center's new technology report program ceremony in Mitchellville, Maryland, last week.

The Belfast man first caught Nasa's attention six years ago when senior scientists there heard him speak about his innovative concepts.

Mr Sterritt lectures in informatics at the University of Ulster's School of Computing and Mathematics and is a member of the Computer Science Research Institute. His interest in space related work was triggered partly by science fiction books as a child and films like Star Wars.

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