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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