OAO 3-C Satellite Project at Princeton University

After high school graduation, I attended Douglass College at Rutgers University. I took advantage of the Individual Major option to combine any courses related to space science for a program of study. Because I could not contain my excitement about space exploration, I frequently spoke of my passion to anyone who would listen. Apparently, my Astronomy professor had been one of them. Three years later he helped me get a job in Princeton University’s Astrophysics Department.

Computers, equations, and fun
Computers, equations, and fun

It really was the day after graduating from college that I was hired to work on a satellite project. It was the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO-3C) given the name Copernicus after the famous Polish astronomer of the 16th century. I was in the space industry just 20 miles from my home town!

Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-3C (aka Copernicus) satellite
Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-3C
(aka Copernicus) satellite

My job was to work with astrophysicists from around the globe. It was initially my task to assist scientists with the collection of the data produced by their satellite experiments. They chose areas of the sky with stars and space dust to study. There were no pictures. It was numbers and graphs but the satellite was our eyes into space. It was exciting to be part of this! I learned how to put the information into forms they could take back with them to use on their computers. I also trained the astrophysicists how to use computers, which were beginning to become smaller — just before personal computers existed.

Internal optics of OAO-3C satellite
Internal optics of OAO-3C satellite

Dr. Lyman Spitzer was the Chairman of the Astrophysics Department. He was instrumental in the developing the Large Space Telescope project, which later became known as the of the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr. Ed Weiler was also part of our team at NASA-Goddard. Later he worked at NASA-Headquarters, where he was responsible for major planetary expeditions — rovers that landed on Mars to explore with cameras and robotic arms.


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