Dr. Rita R. Colwell
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Gemini North Dedication Ceremony
Mauna Kea, Hawaii
June 25, 1999
Good morning and welcome to everyone. I am honored
on behalf of the National Science Foundation to open
our dedication ceremony for the Gemini North Observatory.
This is a special place and a special time
and a focus of many connections, some tangible
and some symbolic.
We have gathered on this mountaintop, a mystical place
where earth meets sky, to celebrate a milestone in
the efforts of humankind to fix our place in the universe,
a universe that is unimaginably vast.
How symbolic that this first capture of starlight by
an instrument of unprecedented precision comes also
at a special moment--just as we are counting
down the days to a new millennium.
This observatory symbolizes our hopes for a new era
of scientific exploration and collaboration.
It's not just the altitude but also the occasion that
takes our breath away. We stand here on the brink
of discoveries we cannot even imagine.
We can only be sure they will enlarge our vision and
make our spirits soar--into this thin air and far
beyond. I turn to the words of the Chilean poet, Pablo
Neruda, who wrote, "Every day you play with the light
of the universe."
We know that connections interweave our universe at
every scale. Thus each of us is made of atoms
borne of stars. The many and various connections give
the Gemini project a special vigor.
Gemini is the only one of the new generation of telescopes
to have a double. It is really a pair of eyes, one
in the Northern Hemisphere and one in the south, whose
linkages create the ability to sweep the entire sky.
We will see images in the infrared, garnered from an
earthbound instrument, that will surpass those from
space. And another achievement: The telescopes will
be open to any astronomer from the participating
This observatory represents the journey by scientists,
engineers, and administrators to a symbolic summit.
Together, we overcame many obstacles through courage,
creativity, and connections.
The links of the project stretch across our planet,
among seven countries and four continents. This partnership
has fused resources into a whole that is more than
the sum of its parts.
We also celebrate today the start of new and stronger
links between the disciplines of science. The observatory
will help us to explore and deepen the connections
between astronomy and physics, and between chemistry
and the biological sciences.
All of these are invigorated by the connections forged
through today's information technologies. The Gemini
Project also embodies exemplary connections between
research and education. This telescope and its southern
twin are not only finely crafted research instruments,
but also cutting-edge laboratories for science education.
We know how astronomy's universal appeal can spark
an abiding curiosity in minds young and old. The discoveries
made here will magnify that power to move minds.
We will link scientists and schools in Chile with those
in the United States, and young people in Canada and
the United Kingdom with those in South America and
Our ceremony here today, with individuals from many
institutions and various nations, embodies in microcosm
these multiple linkages. Let us begin with my distinguished
colleagues here today.
It is time now to close our dedication ceremony of
the Gemini North Observatory. We have heard different
voices and different perspectives about the meaning
of this telescope to scientists, to students, and
to different nations.
Here, on this great island in the middle of the Pacific,
the connections meet. This place was first found by
early navigators with the courage to explore.
They also gave us our first glimmerings of cosmography.
Having dedicated this telescope to exploration in
that tradition, let us now send it searching for our
In the Gemini Observatory we have a model for scientific
collaboration with the promise to connect countries,
disciplines, research and education--and our past
with our future.