Kuiper enjoys the view at Dee Wright Observatory in the Willamette National Forest 🏞️, located in Central Oregon.
Dee Wright isn’t a 🔭⭐ observatory; it’s a ⛰️ observatory, made of lava rock! Completed in 1935, it was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of the New Deal. We stopped by a couple of weeks ago on the way home from an AKC FASTCAT event. 💨
Although not built to observe stars, this place was instrumental in getting us to them. 🚀 In October 1964, a group of 12 astronauts including @drbuzzaldrin, Alan Bean, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong came to this area of Oregon to study geology. 🤘 Their hands-on training examined cinder cones, lava flows and how to tell whether a crater was made by a meteor or a volcano. In July 1966, 22 more astronauts including Jim Irwin, Ken Mattingly, Ed Mitchell and Stuart Roosa (moon trees!! 🌲) came out for their own field trip.
NASA also used Central OR lava fields for spacesuit testing. In August 1964, astronaut Walter Cunningham spent a daring 6 minutes hiking along in a new pressurized suit design before tripping on a rock, cutting a glove open on a piece of obsidian and tumbling down a slope (at which point he was swarmed by photographers. 😮) Fortunately, Walter was fine!! A piece of duct tape saved the day and allowed them to continue testing.
We can thank a local building inspector for the VERY BEST PART of this story. Local resident Floyd Watson was assigned to hang out with Jim Irwin during a welcome dinner for the 1966 cohort. In 1971, Floyd read that Jim had been picked to pilot the lunar module for Apollo 15. Floyd sent Jim a congratulatory letter, with a P.S. “I am sending you a small sliver of Central Oregon lava that I hope you will be able to deliver to the moon for me. I have five grandchildren who will be eternally grateful to you.”
Floyd wasn’t sure if Jim would even remember him, but received a reply in the mail a few weeks after Jim returned to Earth. He opened it to find an autographed picture of his little piece of Oregon on the Moon. I tracked down the color picture from NASA & highlighted it. 😍😍😍
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