Welcome to the Loony Lab

2012-06-14T03:30:00Z 2012-06-14T11:01:28Z Welcome to the Loony LabBy Tom Beal, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 14, 2012 3:30 am  • 

Gerard Kuiper, founder of the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona, was an interesting character, according to those who worked for him.

William Hubbard, who is still at LPL and working on NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter, wrote a remembrance of Kuiper for the 50th anniversary of LPL:

"We old timers still affectionately refer to it as the Loony-Lab. But in those days it was dismissed by many astronomers as the Loony-Lab, a place where you had rather eccentric people who were under the sway of a dictator, namely Gerard Kuiper who was not particularly enlightened in his approach to things.

"I think that was very unfair. We revere Kuiper now, but there was a tendency to dismiss him in those days. So it was a definite gamble to come here."

Astrophysicists tended to look down their noses at their planetary counterparts back in the day, but Kuiper's arrival at the UA in 1960 coincided with the beginning of the space race.

Money poured in for NASA missions and scientific investigations of the closest corner of the cosmos, beginning with moon missions for which Kuiper was well-prepared with maps and photographs.

Sixty-two years later, LPL is still going strong and getting ready to lead a  NASA mission to mine an asteroid.  

You can read other recollections of LPL's early days here.

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