James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What Walter Saw

With the passing of Walter Cronkite on July 17,2009, part of the history of the 20th century also passes on. Walter was born in 1916. And he was one of the biggest fans of space travel in the country at a time when it was far from many people's minds. He once commented that space travel may very well be the one thing future generations would look back and remember about the history of the 20th century.

Stop and think of all that this man saw. He was born before much of the modern theory of astronomy was known. In fact our limits of knowledge did not really go beyond the milky way galaxy. There were 8 planets. The largest telescope in the world was only 100 inches in diameter. Nuclear energy existed only on paper. The first great war was over and the second had not begun. There were no satellites. The sky he saw was completely free of all light pollution. His generation could look up at the sky and see places that nobody had ever been, and only imagine that one day, perhaps, going there was possible.

Yet he saw so much. From the development of the first rockets as a front line reporter, through to the dawn of the space age, the cold war rockets, to the Sputnik's, the failures, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. He saw the headlines when Pluto was discovered, when the cosmos grew to include galaxies, onto the Voyager probes, the discovery that ringed planets abounded, and moons held secrets that few could only imagine. He was a huge fan of space and science, and his only claim was as a witness of the history before his eyes. He remained awestruck with mankinds achievements and held an optimism for our future in space.

It must have been an awesome life to live. For if we are to go this far, this fast ever again, then the world our children will see will be vastly different from the one they live on today - they simply won't be living here. Walter never believed for a second that this was not possible, nor should we.


  1. I have taken some time to remember Walter as well. He had such optimism for the future and was not afraid to point out where we made our mistakes. He was an inspiration. Thanks for posting. I like your blog. Keep it up.


  2. An inspiration indeed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.