The race to save a piece of "space race" history
The race is on to save a piece of Oklahoma history that, for more than half a century, has offered Oklahoma students a pathway to the stars.
To find this little known site you only need to take a trip to the hometown of one of Oklahoma’s most famous astronauts, Owen K. Garriott. Once you enter Enid, head to the high school and look up.
Sitting atop the original section of the high school building is a small dome that houses a relic of the Cold War.
“This dome in here is fully rotational so we can use it any time the skies are clear and it keeps us out of the weather and wind,” said Dusty Hugaboom who as Enid’s astronomy teacher takes care of the only high-school-based observatory in the state.
The observatory was built with a grant offered during the space race. The current telescope was installed in 1966, and after fifty years atop the school still provides amazement.
“It's the wow experience,” Hugaboom explains of why he enjoys introducing students to the stars.
“It really creates a passion for observation and a passion for astronomy and a passion for science in general,” Hugaboom told FOX 25. Many of Enid’s astronomy students have went on to study in fields related to atmospheric sciences.
While the observatory offers students a pass to the stars, it has its limitations and is beginning to show its age.
“A new telescope, new software that will allow us to drive those images via the internet connection to the classroom so that it is more useful on a daily basis,” said Sandra Robinett of Friends of the Observatory about the wish list for improvements.
The mission of Friends of the Observatory is not just restoration.
“The inspiration behind the committee is to inspire students to embrace science,” Robinett said.
The effort to save the observatory has also garnered support from Enid's astronaut-in-law. The observatory is officially named the Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg Observatory.
Currie-Gregg flew on four space shuttle missions and is married to an Enid alum, Tim. She also spent part of her career training at Enid’s Vance Air Force Base. While Enid already has one claim to space fame, the community has been happy to adopt another of NASA’s stars.
If the Currie-Gregg Observatory is able to raise the money for renovations, it would end up benefiting every Oklahoman interested in seeing into space. The goal is to provide live video feeds when the observatory is in use and make the images captured available online. This would allow students to learn from the observatory during the day time as well as experiencing the “wow” factor in person.
In addition to the fundraising happening right now, the observatory could soon be part of the historical record. The Oklahoma Historical Society recently reviewed the site in order to start the process of attempting to get it declared a national historic site.