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​Architects and Space

From Outer Space to Your Space

Chris d Craiker AIA/NCARB

When Architects talk about space, they typically think in terms of structures and how to enclose the human experience. However, the last few weeks has been momentous for all us outer space geeks.

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched to explore the birth of our universe some 13.5 billion years ago. The telescope satellite will orbit earth at over a million miles and unpack its folded lens “like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis”. We may not see the reactions to our questions for years to come.

Almost simultaneously, eyes focused on the exploits of Space X as it launched Starlink into outer space, a satellite internet project, to provide low-cost Internet to remote worldwide locations. Eventually, up to 42,000 satellites could orbit the earth. Just what we need: More space junk.

On an architects note, it’s been 52 years since over half a billion people around the world watched as Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, July 20, 1969. I have to repeat Neil Armstrong‘s minimalist remark as he ascended the latter onto the moon surface: “it’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

In commemorating this momentous event, the Apollo mission control center building at NASA, Houston, has been renovated and rebuilt to show exactly what it looks like on that fateful day. Every coffee cup, ashtray (yes, lots of smoking), control panels and old computers. A palace museum for space geeks.

Why do we do this? Why are you spending billions of dollars to get answers we may never see, only our descendants might view?

It is evitable that humans will someday reach and colonize the Moon, Mars, and other planets. Humans have always been searching for new settlements forever. New settlements always required two critical elements: protection and water. Protection becomes enclosure and architecture. Water gave us plants, animals and life. Without getting too esoteric, our search for life in our solar system, our galaxy and outer solar systems is as ancient as humans themselves.

However, our desire to see the stars does not have to be as big as a $10 billion satellite but as simple as a backyard telescope or observatory.

Backyard observatory allows one to collect own’s own astrophotography images on a consistent basis. One’s camera can collect deep space photos never seen before, and besides, it’s cool.

Space geeks around us shouldn’t be daunted by potentially huge expenditures. A backyard observatory basic structure can be prepared for as little as $10,000. The telescope might be a more expensive, depending on the lenses and tracking equipment.

The simplest structures require the following:

  1. Make sure you have a clear view of the North star, Polaris, and decent view in the east and south. If you’re in an urban area, or subject to urban smog, you’ll needs special filters.

  2. Measure the backyard and make sure you have at least 24 ft X 24 ft of area, hopefully flat.

  3. Talk to an observatory expert and discuss your site conditions, location and your vision.

  4. Have lengthy conversations with your partner to make sure they are on board.

  5. Have the plans drawn and a permit issued. Assume six months.

  6. Order of the telescope and equipment. Assume six months delivery.

  7. Construct a 12‘x12‘ floating deck and pour the concrete foundation.

  8. Assemble the shell and cancel your TV subscriptions. You won’t need them.

Becoming an amateur astronomer with your own telescope, or stepping up to an observatory, is a delightful alternative to yoga and meditation. This is all about reaching out beyond your immediate environment and immersing yourself in a universe far, far away, beyond all the fantasies of Marvel Movies.

Chris d Craiker AIA/NCARB grew up under the LA Griffith Park Observatory and knows it better than Adelle

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