Romanian astronaut marks 10th anniversary of Prime Meridian Astronomy Club

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First Romanian to reach space Dumitru Prunariu marked on Saturday in Northwestern town of Oradea the 10th anniversary of the “Prime Meridian” Astronomy Club, dedicated to the fact that for about two centuries (1464-1667) the prime meridian used for navigation maps passed through the town.

“Oradea has got very interesting merits in terms of astronomy. The prime meridian. The truth is not very well known, but it’s all true: once, the prime meridian passed through Oradea. The first maps that led the quest for knowledge and adventure, the world quest, had Oradea on the prime meridian. However, because it was not promoted in research and the media, this is very little known. We need to understand how to promote what we have, and why not, hail what we have, because it’s not nothing,” Prunariu said during a press conference.

Prime Meridian Astroclub was established in 2006 by Oradea professors Nicoleta Pazmany and Marin Bica who volunteered to teach astronomy to children in town.

Europe’s first astronomic observatory, before the one in Nuremberg, owes its existence to Bishop Ioan Vitez who brought famous astronomer Georg von Peuerbach to Oradea, Pazmany explained. Peuerbach had developed his own eclipse tables and translated them to the prime meridian that passed through Oradea. They later became Tabulae Varadiensis and were employed by sailors exploring the New World. “Somehow this place is connected to the discovery of the New World and it’s a pity that young people don’t know it,” the professor added, according to Agerpres.

Prunariu also said that one of the participants, aeronautical engineer Cristian Lazar, is training to become the second Romanian astronaut. “He contacted me since he was in high-school: “I need to become Romania’s second astronaut. What do I have to do?” Here he is: he graduated aeronautics, he graduated from the International Cosmic University in Strasbourg and is now working for Airbus in Germany, he builds satellites. (…) I’d very much like to see another Romanian in space. I’ll support him with all my heart. I’ve been waiting for many years for a second Romanian astronaut,” Prunariu said.

The astronaut also talked about the context that brought him to be the first Romanian in space. “When I flew to space there was an organization in Eastern Europe, the Intercosmos Council, an inter-governmental organization that Romania joined in 1968; they dealt with the stages of development and cooperation in space exploration. Many research institutes developed then, many researchers were trained, international cooperation was established, we went to experiments with people from Poland, Hungary and other countries in the region, we developed projects together and they were sent to space and functioned well. Until I flew to space in 1981. Romania already had launched 17 prototypes in space. Few knew about it, only the researchers that were working in the field knew about it,” Prunariu said.