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Waddell Robey is back for another week! He has eighteen years of aerospace engineering and management experience and thirty plus years in health and human services research. He is a strong space exploration activist and maintains a steady commentary on Twitter as XiNeutrino and through direct mailings to NASA leadership. He has several blogs devoted to space exploration. His philosophy is that we are here to explore, and in exploring we discover, and in discovering we seek to explain, and in explaining we enrich that which we call science.
The retirement of NASA’s shuttle is pending, and with that comes an approaching end to the glorious service of the Hubble Space Telescope; unless there can be an alternative method of maintaining its service. Why should we worry? The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is designed to be Hubble’s successor. Unlike Hubble, the JWST, located in an L2-L4 orbit, will not require regular servicing and will provide astronomers and other cosmic investigators with new and expanded capabilities. Well, that is fine, but why let such a versatile and valuable space telescope, as the Hubble, simply fall from the sky? We need to send Hubble to school and create THE HUBBLE ACADEMY.
Oh, no, I hear the shouted warnings: “Costs, Maintenance, Access” As a rebuttal example, the actual cost to keep and sustain the Hubble in space runs out to less than 2 cents per US taxpayer. So what if we developed a global funding strategy (GFS) that would raise $.15/month per mobile communications and/or Internet subscription to support the Hubble Academy? What could all of this promote?
The Concept: Young minds stimulated to be curious and to learn how to use that curiosity to both learn and explore is vital to our continuing evolution as a sentient civilization. The ideal place to start is with school children in the 5th grades up through the Middle School grades. This is the student population where the seeds of scientific curiosity are most effectively planted. It would be:
A Rejuvenated Hubble: Using an already fully researched technology, Hubble would be robotically serviced to renew and extend its life to support the Hubble Academy. Yes, this would be the most expensive portion of the entire Hubble Academy program. As is shown in the GFS budget, each member nation would contribute a share of the overall cost of the robotic servicing mission.
A Global Population: School youngsters from every member nation would be eligible to participate in the program. A member nation is one that shares with the United States a portion of start-up costs and the 10 year operating budget for the Hubble Academy.
A Shared Access System: As documented in the above GFS, participants would be provided with a scholarship that would both encourage and underwrite their celestial explorations using the HST. Access to the telescope would follow the basic guidelines that were originally established for research astronomers. Most importantly, participating students would have already completed introductory astronomy programs that utilizes Earth based telescopes. Part of the scholarship funds would underwrite the costs of that program (One-half of the scholarship funds would buy telescope time with GRAS (Global Rent A Scope- system). Special astronomy tutors would also be funded by the academy’s Fellowship program (see GFS budget). They would work directly with the students in both ground based and HST applications.
An academically supported curriculum: The Hubble Academy would work closely with both public and private elementary and middle school institutions to integrate the academy curriculum with the regular school programs. The academy program would involve after-school and weekend hours. Many of the after-school hours would be held on school property with access to Internet supported computer systems. Financial support for these activities would come from the academy’s program budget.
A persistent itch: It is not a goal of the academy to graduate trained young scientists. The goal is to induce a persistent itch of intellectual curiosity than spans all the sciences and not just astronomy or the space telescopes. Reaching out with an eye upon the cosmos expands both brain and imagination to unimaginable grasp. Where that takes the individual student is what is important. Physicist, biologist, historian, artist, astronomer, teacher, all are some of the ways to scratch that itch. It is the motivation and the initial wherewithal that The Hubble Academy will instill.
Caveats and Cheers: Yes, this could all blow away as a delightful pipe dream. On the other hand, it can also be an incredible international investment in humankind’s intellectual future. The entire process of learning and doing with both basic astronomy and looking deep into the cosmos embeds curiosity and imagination deep into a youngster’s soul. In other words, it creates that intellectual itch.
Yes, funding may never materialize, but that is highly unlikely if there is a global commitment to make The Hubble Academy a reality. Fifteen cents per month on a mobile communication bill or an Internet fee is absolutely pocket change. What is so astounding is that when this pocket change is multiplied by global support, The Hubble Academy will happen. For pennies per month we stand to open the eyes and the minds of our youngsters; our evolutionary pathfinders and all our futures.
Lastly, one of the most outstanding accomplishments of this program will be its global linking of young people to a common understanding of the cosmos. This is a powerful force for unity and understanding that can move humankind closer together. This global unity is both inspiration and motivation for our onward evolution. We are, in reality, cosmos.
Look Up! Hubble Awaits Us!
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