|Gerard P. Kuiper Early Graduate Students Missions to the Moon Telescopes & Research|
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Kuiper started to develop the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory down here. I believe he came down in 1960, because I had one more year to get my bachelor’s. I don’t remember exactly when he came down, but at that time the University was all between the wall. You know, the remnants of the basalt wall? It was a great time. It was not very well known in those days.
It was known was the “Loony-Lab.” We old timers still affectionately refer to it as the Loony-Lab. But in those days it was dismissed by many astronomers as the Loony-Lab, a place where you had rather eccentric people who were under the sway of a dictator, namely Gerard Kuiper who was not particularly enlightened in his approach to things. I think that was very unfair. We revere Kuiper now, but there was a tendency to dismiss him in those days. So it was a definite gamble to come here.
Very, very little was known about the Moon. We had hardly any data at all. And yet Kennedy announced in 1961 that we were going to send men to the Moon. At that time I was studying images from a geological point of view. I’d heard that Gerard Kuiper had moved his group from Yerkes to the University of Arizona, and opened up the Lunar Lab in 1960. I thought that’d be a great place to work. I came in the spring of 1963 and started here.
At that time the push was for the Moon, although Kuiper and his colleagues were also looking at Mars and other planets. But this was the only place at that time that studied planets, a whole laboratory dedicated to the study of the Moon and planets.
Because of all the observatories around, this was the place, of all places on Earth, where you could get to see any working astronomer from anywhere as he passed through town, once a year at least. So it was a great place for making contacts not just in Tucson, but all over the place.
The first place I worked was in the temporary buildings. They had buildings that were made in World War II, with sort of hemispherical roofs, you know, curved roofs. They were still there when I got there in the sixties. That’s where the first Lunar Laboratory, where we did the mission and the photographs.
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