American astronomers in Tehran
July 27, 2000 (Search for Common Ground)
-- A delegation of American astronomers is in Iran taking part in an astronomy
conference with other American scientists and their Iranian counterparts,
as well as European and Asian participants. Among the participants are
Dr. Alan Hale (co-discoverer of the Hale-Bopp Comet) and former astronaut
Bruce McCandless (co-developer of the Manned Maneuvering Unit used by Space
Shuttle astronauts during the 1980s and a deployer of the Hubble Space
Telescope in 1990), along with JPL and Goddard scientists.
This trip builds upon contacts that were made during the last Search
for Common Ground-led trip to Iran in August 1999 to view the last total
solar eclipse of the last millennium.
Despite the recent downturn in the turbulent relations between the U.S.
and Iran in the wake of the recent verdicts against the Iranian Jews; the
testing of the Shehab-3 missile; and the anti-Iran legislation being introduced
in Congress; there is an untold story of a series of successful, ongoing
people-to-people exchanges between Iranians and Americans. While the two
governments posture and harangue each other, citizens of both countries
are taking matters into their own hands and making their own (non-governmental)
This astronomy exchange is only the most recent of a number of similar
initiatives organized by Search for Common Ground, a Washington D.C. based
nonprofit organization dedicated to international and domestic conflict
resolution. Search for Common Ground has implemented several exchanges
between Americans and Iranians, including a highly-publicized tour of Iran
by an American wrestling team in February 1998 and the visit by Iranian
environmentalists to the U.S. in October/November 1999.
The delegation will be in Iran through July 28. Hale and McCandless
will be available for phone or in-person interviews at any time.
Some key participants:
Dr. Alan Hale - Astroomer; Co-discoverer of the Hale-Bopp Comet; Founder
& Director of the Southwest Institute for Space Research (SWISR) in
Cloudcroft, New Mexico; and participant on last year's Search for Common
Ground-led trip to Esfahan to observe the last solar eclipse on August
Bruce McCandless II - Former Apollo 14 astronaut who co-developed the
Manned Maneuvering Unit used by Space Shuttle astronauts during the 1980s;
heavily involved in the development of the Hubble Space Telescope and was
a member of the crew that deployed it in 1990.
Douglas Biesecker - Astronomer, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Charles Morris - Aerospace Engineer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)