European Extremely Large Telescope – With No American Money

The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be built on a mountaintop in Chile.

An artist's impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
[artist’s impression – click for picture credit]
It will be the largest telescope in the world by far. Its size will allow us to see further into the distant past of the universe than ever before. There will be enough resolution to see planets around distant stars in our own galactic neighborhood. We will even be able to distinguish surface features, like changing of ice caps over seasons as well as changes of coloration on the surface. We will have a way to “see” life on different planets. And it will all happen within the next 15 years. Here is a good The Guardian article with lots of detailed information.

The project will cost over a billion Euros.

From frequently asked questions:

The total cost of the E-ELT is 1083 million euros, spread over ten years, in 2012 euros. The funding of the E-ELT project is in three parts. About one third comes from the normal ESO budget. Another third comes from the accession of Brazil and its future payments. A final 435 million euros comes from additional commitments from the other 14 Member States.

In my research I could not find any American involvement or American money, and I experienced a peculiar sense of bitter-sweetness.

First, bitter, because I am used to America being on the very forefront of technological advances, and I am used to being proud of being an American for that reason, among others. This time, America is noticeably absent, and it gave me a twinge.

Second, sweet, because I am glad American money and power is not involved. Our government and its funding have proven fickle when considering decade-long projects. We’re good at blowing money at alarming rates to fill the coffers of defense contractors and fossil-fuel companies. But when it comes to science and technology, I don’t trust our Congress, and its Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I don’t think they have the best interest of the country and the advance of science in mind.

Just see my recent post that shows that 27 cents of every tax dollar goes to the military, and 1.1 cent goes to science!

Just look at some of the ranking members of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology:

Rep Broun

This picture is right off the site of Rep. Broun. Check out the gun! In case you don’t know, Rep. Broun is a medical doctor, therefore a scientist, I’d think, but he calls evolution “lies straight from the pit of hell.”  He also believes that the earth was created in six days. I’d say he might not be very interested about what happened before the earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago.

Rep Neugebauer

Here is Rep. Neugebauer. This is right from his congressional site. This is the congressman who berated a female park ranger on national TV last fall when she was doing her job keeping people out of a closed National Park during the government shutdown. The image right next to his face is a derrick, one of those most scientific of objects. You might take a wild guess about where Neugebauer’s priorities lie.

So, I think it’s sweet that American money is not involved in the construction and operation of the E-ELT. That way it’s safely kept away from the purse strings of our people, congress and the dumbed-down Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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