By Oliver Farrimond
A TINY book of Robert Burns’ poems is set to be blasted into SPACE.
The miniature book will dock with the International Space Station next year after being carried into orbit by an American astronaut.
A distant relative of Scotland’s Bard, Alan Archibald, donated the book to a space school after discovering he was distantly related to Burns last year.
Alan, an electronics engineer at the University of Strathclyde, said: ““As it’s the year of Homecoming I thought it would be nice to celebrate Burns and the Space School by sending the Bard’s words into space.
“Although the songs are very old, his words remain well-known and loved across the world.
“He was quite a character and it seemed fitting that we celebrate his work in an unusual way.
“I suppose it’s one small book for man, one giant message for mankind.”
The book contains 14 poems and songs, and will accompany NASA pilot Tony Antonelli on Space Shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station during May of next year.
Engineer Alan had the idea after discovering he was Rabbie’s great-great-great-great-great-nephew last year.
He added: “There had been a rumour in our family for a number of years that we were related to Burns, but nobody knew what the relationship was.
“I decided to check it out and began to look at documents, include birth and death certificates.”
After discovering the link, he tracked down the tiny book and decided to have it blasted into space to celebrate both his own discovery, and the 250th anniversary of the Bard’s birth.
Alan then passed on the thumb-sized book on to a group of Scots students on a trip to Space School at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas – via First Minister Alex Salmond.
The First Minister said: “In the Year of Homecoming when we celebrate the global influence of Robert Burns, it’s fantastic to see our national poet’s legacy travel even further.
“Launching this miniature book of poems into space is an excellent way to highlight the many great contributions that Scotland has given to the world.
“Great Scottish minds have been at the forefront of innovation for centuries and our excellent reputation continues today.”
After returning from its cosmic trip, it is hoped that the book will become an exhibit at the Burns Museum at Alloway when it opens next year.