Blessing/dedication for MKAEC construction site set for June 30

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Date: Wednesday, June 2, 2004
Contact: Dr. Marlene Hapai, (808) 933-3917

For Immediate Release


Rendering of Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center

The public is invited to an afternoon of exhibits, hands-on activities and entertainment to mark the blessing and dedication of the Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center (MKAEC) construction site. Festivities will begin at noon, Wednesday, June 30, in the University of Hawaii at Hilo University Park of Science and Technology.

Observatory base facilities located in the Park will conduct an open house featuring a wide range of astronomical exhibits. Some will include additional activities such as facility tours and solar viewing. Kamuela-based observatories will also be represented. Additionally, other science and Hawaiian cultural hands-on and interactive exhibits and activities will be set up outside for school groups and the general public to enjoy. The blessing and dedication is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. fronting the Cal-Tech Sub millimeter telescope facility at the corner of A`ohoku Place and Nowelo Street, and will include remarks by various University, county, state and federal dignitaries.

Primary guest parking will located on the UH Hilo campus, where a van shuttle service will be provided every 15 to 30 minutes. Additional parking will be provided on Nowelo Street and the newly constructed Road C in the Park.

MKAEC occupies a nine-acre site in the Park, which will become the world center for modern astronomy with its high concentration of observatory base facilities and scientific/technical staff, all of which are within easy walking distance of the UH Hilo campus.

The 40,000-square-foot Center will become the premier interpretative facility for sharing the discoveries of the deepest mysteries of the universe by the world’s most important collection of telescopes. Major components will include a 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a multi-purpose planetarium, classrooms for Center programs, a scenic view restaurant and gift shop.

“This represents the missing piece of the puzzle,” said Chancellor Rose Tseng. “We have about a billion dollars worth of scientific investment on Mauna Kea, where cutting edge research is taking place. MKAEC will enable us to showcase the fruits of that research and bring the concepts and discipline of astronomy alive.”

The MKAEC activities will be designed to educate and inspire students, teachers and communities about space and astronomy, promote scientific literacy and interest, and bridge the gap between culture and science by framing its facilities and programs in Hawai`i’s rich Polynesian tradition of exploration.

“The Center should really help to tie together, enhance, increase and expand the many outstanding educational outreach activities already taking place here on the Big Island,” said Dr. Marlene Hapai, MKAEC director. “This might just be the proverbial spark that ignites the fire and creates the widespread interest in astronomy we’ve been trying to cultivate among our youth preparing and positioning them to fill the shoes of the many scientists America needs today and in the future.”

Hapai believes the Center will also boost the Big Island economy by becoming a popular visitor attraction.

“MKAEC should be visually stunning, and easily visible from Hilo Bay, where more and more cruise ship passengers are arriving to visit the Big Island,” Hapai said. “I believe the Center could conservatively attract 100,000 or more visitors per year, which would benefit everyone. At the same time, it would fulfill a personal dream of creating a greater variety of jobs for our Big Island residents, by expanding opportunities in the area of natural sciences.”

The $28 million project is being funded through a joint partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). MKAEC is expected to open in late 2005.

School groups may schedule a visit to attend the open house and hands-on activities by contacting Amy at the Center at (808) 933-3916 by June 21st.


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