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At an International Astronomical Union meeting in 1955, noted astronomer Gerard Kuiper asked for suggestions and collaborators on a project to make a map of the moon. At the time, the best lunar atlases had hand-drawn images, and Kuiper wanted to use state-of-the-art telescopes to make a photographic atlas.
Only one person responded.
Community - Attitude - Moon - Telescopes - Objects
That was indicative of the astronomical community's general attitude toward the moon. After all, telescopes were designed to look at distant objects, and the moon is rather close, and boring as well, since its appearance doesn't change. Furthermore, Kuiper wanted to make a map, and that's the sort of thing that geologists, not astronomers, do.
Kuiper proceeded, though, and by 1960, he had moved his small operation to the University of Arizona in Tucson. There he could take advantage of the region's mountaintops and clear skies, and the university's willingness to move into a field of study that defied traditional departmental boundaries. The next year, President John F. Kennedy announced that a national goal for the decade was to send a man to the moon and back safely. Suddenly, the niche pursuit of making maps of the moon had turned into a national priority.
Years - Kuiper - Lunar - Planetary - Laboratory
For the next several years, Kuiper's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory produced progressively better images of the moon, using telescopes built for the purpose. Later they used images from robotic spacecraft to the moon to produce a series of increasingly sophisticated atlases of the lunar surface.
As a child, I was focused on the accomplishments of the astronauts, starting with the day in 1961 that the principal burst into my kindergarten classroom to tell us that Alan Shepard had been launched into space, and culminating in the Apollo 11 landing in 1969.
Missions - Space - Science
Like most of us who watched all those missions, I didn't really expect to go into space science...
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