Celebrating Idaho’s Only Astronaut and Armature Astronomers in the Gem State
Well today is International Astronomy Day which according to NationalToday is" is celebrated twice a year, close to the first quarter moon of spring and fall — on May 15 and October 9, this year."
A Mountain Home, Idaho native is Idaho's only Astronaut who has been to the International Space Shuttle. James F. Reilly went on three space shuttle missions during his career from 1994 to 2008.
According to the NASA website, "These missions included the transport of important equipment for other stations, the retrieval of astronauts from different expeditions, and performing construction and repair on the International Space Station."
One of Idaho's largest tourist attractions is Craters of the Moon National Monument, The National Park Service says, "Craters of the Moon is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. We invite you to explore this "weird and scenic landscape" where yesterday's volcanic events are likely to continue tomorrow."
It is a lot more than just hardened rock, Idaho's lava beds served as a training site for some of the most famous astronauts and space adventurers of the century. According to Idaho National Laboratory, "Idaho’s relationship with NASA began in 1969, the same year Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. That August, NASA sent four Apollo astronauts, including Alan Shepard, to Craters of the Moon National Monument for geology training. The former test pilots would be collecting rocks on the moon’s Fra Mauro Highlands, and NASA mission planners decided Craters of the Moon would be a good place for them to practice spotting scientifically interesting rock specimens."
The late 60s isn't the only time that NASA has used Idaho's moon look alike terrain to practice. Over the decades multiple NASA and science tests and experiments have gone on in Craters of the Moon National Monument, including an extensive and expensive array of equipment tests as recently as 2014.
We are lucky to live in a state that affords us the ability to see crystal clear, stunning night skies. Love Exploring put together a list of the best star gazing spots in the United States. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in central Idaho got the top spot for the gem state. It is so far from any towns, very little light pollution is in the area, making it an impeccable and sought after night sky viewing spot.
Out of all the states around Idaho, Utah took the top star gazing spots with three named. First Bryce Canyon National Park. They are a massive spot for astronomy programs, events, and star gazing expeditions.
Antelope Island State Park is known for its dark skies and bright stars. Antelope Island is an Island in the Great Salt Lake. It is bucket list worthy to see a beautiful and clear night sky from the Island. Star lovers travel from all over the country to see the skies from Antelope Island for good reason.
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Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah is a unique place to visit day or night. The park is known for its stunning arched rock formations and for its vast starry skies and make for some stellar images.