Monday, November 16, 2009

If You Build It, They Will Discover: The Top 5 Most Amazing Engineering Accomplishments in Astronomy & Space Exploration

Of all the engineering accomplishments in astronomy and space exploration, does it make sense three out of the top four chosen happened to be telescopes? It amazes me the shuttle barely made the top five. I remember trying to create a working version of the space shuttle for an Estes model rocket competition in the mid 1970’s. I had a pretty hard time of it, especially the part about getting the booster engines to ignite the shuttle engines. I can’t imagine the real thing presented any easier a task.

On the other hand, when I opened my official IYA2009 Galileo Telescope and tried to put it together, I discovered I was all thumbs. Maybe that’s why my studies focused on theoretical – as opposed to observational – astronomy. It turns out, tapping a computer keyboard (or, in all honesty, punching cards) rather than manipulating wrenches and pliers better suited my motor skills.

In the spring of 2009, accepted 21 nominations for the greatest engineering accomplishments in astronomy and space exploration. The Mariner’s Astrolabe rose to the level of my favorite (for more info, see the article “The Age of Exploration Might Not Have Happened If…”).

In the summer of 2009, using such Web 2.0 tools as Twitter and LinkedIn, polled professionals and interested amateurs from all across the world to vote for their favorite engineering accomplishments in astronomy and space exploration. is an official IYA2009 outreach project designed to increase interest in the best of astronomy and space exploration among all age groups. Over the course of these last few weeks of this fun venture, we will discover the greatest image and imagination in astronomy and space exploration. You can vote your #1 choice from the list of the top ten by going to Still don’t get it? Try picturing what happens when you mix Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and Fox’s American Idol. That’s!

We now proudly unveil the top five (in reverse order based on weighted votes) greatest sights in Astronomy and Space Exploration:

#5 Space Shuttle (1981)
#4 Mount Palomar 200” Mirror (1948)
#3 Galilean Telescope (1609)
#2 International Space Station (1998)
#1 Hubble Telescope (1990)

Each of these mechanical marvels has a great story behind them. Perhaps we can attribute the dearth of space vehicles to the continuing phenomenon known as “Apollo Fatigue” – the “been there, done that” apathy that arose following the seven moon missions. On the other hand, maybe observational astronomers dominated the respondent universe in this particular survey. If you also wonder about this, feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section below. What’s more, vote your #1 choice from the list of the top ten by going directly to

The greatest sights in astronomy and space exploration represent only one of eight categories in our quest to identify the top 100 greatest images and imaginations in astronomy and space exploration. How do these five events compare to the top five in the other seven categories? Would you like to see the complete list of the Top 40 greatest images and imaginations in astronomy and space exploration? Just go to this site: to discover them all.

Which of the top 10 will become the #1 greatest image and imagination in astronomy and space exploration? You can help us by voting your opinion at our surveymonkey poll located here:

Have fun!

From now until December 4, 2009, followers of on will get the first opportunity to answer a new survey. Next, members of the LinkedIn AstronomyTop100 Group will be invited to answer. Finally, members of some relevant LinkedIn groups will also be invited to complete the survey. All surveys will be conducted through

If you’re interested in viewing all the nominations and voting in the Round One surveys, visit to see all the best of the Top 100 Greatest Images and Imaginations in Astronomy and Space Exploration. If you’d like to take a survey, go to the relevant category page on

Just interested in keeping tabs on everything about and astronomy in general? Then follow it on Twitter (@AstronomyTop100).

Explore the unexplored. Discover the undiscovered. Know the unknown.

No comments:

Post a Comment