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It's always nice to get good news from one's alma mater (instead of the usual begging letters from the development foundation). Where I went to school (University of Colorado), astronomy, planetary science, and space sciences research have always been Big Things. I did my graduate studies while serving on a team that worked with an HST instrument (the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph), and also did some work on comet images under a Halley Watch grant. One of the folks who I overlapped with at CU is Alan Stern, now Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, and an old friend. At CU he worked with the Center for Space and Geoscience Policy, before leaving to work at Southwest Research Institute. A number of other missions had CU relationships, including some involving other members of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (where I worked), Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (I worked there as an undergraduate), and a variety of other research institutes at CU.
Artist concepts of a Naval Observatory Proposal involving CU-Boulder to place a carpet-like radio telescope on the moon to probe the earliest structures in the universe. Image courtesy CU-Boulder, NRL
Suffice to say, I was pleased to see a press release today outlining a pair of projects that NASA and the Naval Research Laboratory has selected for further funding and development that both involve people and institutions at CU. The first is for a space observatory to find Earth-like planets in distant solar systems. The other is for a unique type of low-frequency radio telescope on the far side of the Moon. Astronomers would use it to look for some of the earliest structures in the universe. Both are very worthy projects and I'm pleased to see my home university continue its winning streak in astronomy and space science. (Read more details here.)
Both projects should give undergraduate and graduate students first-hand experience in designing instruments AND doing science, something that attracted me back to graduate school in the first place (lo these many years ago). While CU isn't the only university that gets these grants and makes opportunities available, it has been a leader for many years in this area. I can't think of Duane Physics tower or the LASP building or the JILA towers without remembering all the really smart, really great scientists who came out of those labs and who are making solid scientific contributions today. There are whole new generations of instruments and projects waiting for new generations of student scientists. And that's good news for science and for old alums like me.
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