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From Mayo to Mars

John Connor and his wife Teresa relaxing in their home in Tooreen.?
HISTORY MAKERS John Connor and his wife Teresa relaxing in their home in Tooreen.?Pic: Frank Dolan

It’s a long way from Tooreen to Mars!

Michael Commins

TOOREEN couple John and Teresa Connor are the first Mayo people to have their names on the surface of Mars. Not only that, but their photos have circled the earth numerous times on board the NASA Endeavour Mission.
John’s abiding interest in space exploration is behind this amazing story. He was checking the NASA website one night when he spotted a notice asking anyone who wanted to have their names put on board the space mission to Mars to forward it to them at headquarters.
“Teresa and I decided there and then that we would forward our names to them for inclusion in the historic project,” says John. “We both got a certificate back stating – ‘John and Teresa Connor - John Connor: You are part of history.  Your name will be carried to Mars on a microchip carried by Nasa’s Science Laboratory Rover.”
Last year, they featured in the Face in Space venture when NASA invited people to send their pictures to NASA to be put on board the second last shuttle to take off from Florida. “This certifies that the face of John Connor has flown in space around the earth on space shuttle Endeavour on Mission STS134 from May 16 to June 1 2011. The Face was flown on Endeavor’s mission to the International Space Station at an altitude of 220 miles above the earth. It flew at a speed of more than 17,400mph as it orbited our planet.  On behalf of my crew and all of NASA, we thank you for sharing the excitement of our mission and welcome your interest in space exploration.  We were glad to have you on board. Signed – Mark Kelly,” says the framed certificate proudly on display in the Connor family home, alongside a similar one for Teresa.
Mark Kelly’s wife, US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was seriously injured in an assassination attempt in January 2011.
Three years ago, John was watching one of the shuttle launches live on Fox News.
“I went out on the hill behind the house as it was a clear night here in the West. Around 18 minutes later the shuttle came in over Ireland. I saw it jettison the fuel tank way out over the Atlantic and saw the ball of fire coming down.  We travelled to Cape Kennedy in 2009 to see one of the launches of the shuttle Columbia but it had to be postponed because of problems. I have a great love for all things to do with space explorations,” says John.
Now, if only they can sign up a few good hurlers from Mars for Tooreen!