The activation last week of the world's largest particle collider is momentous for science, but also highlights the need for continued investment in research in the United States, according to Kansas University professor and former NASA astronaut Steve Hawley.
"There is an issue about the amount of investment in research and technology that we're making compared to what other countries are making," Hawley said when asked about the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland. "We were for a long time the leaders in investing in science and technology and I think we run the risk of losing that."
Hawley, a Kansas native and KU alumnus who recently joined the KU faculty as professor of physics and astronomy, detailed his involvement with the Hubble Space Telescope on Sunday.
He delivered a lecture to a crowd of more than 100 people at KU's Spooner Hall. The event was hosted by KU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Launched in 1990, the Hubble has contributed to such advances as the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.
Hawley has been involved in all of the Hubble's missions, including as a part of a flight crew for two missions.
"I think it's been a tremendously successful science instrument, arguably the single greatest science instrument ever made," he said.
Hawley brought mementos of his work with the Hubble. He showed the audience a Hubble image showing roughly 1,500 galaxies.
"We don't know very much at all about 95 percent of the universe," he said. "For all of you that are interested in astronomy, there's a lot of work to be done."
Hawley said he hoped his talk would inspire young people in the audience.
"I think it's really important for kids growing up in Kansas to know that if they stay in school and take the hard courses and pursue their dreams with diligence and enthusiasm, that it can pay off for them," he said.
He said the launch of the particle collider in Europe was a positive for science, but the amount of U.S. investment in research and technology was an issue.
"Hopefully we'll see that the things we have today that make our life the way it is are the things we invested in decades ago," he said. "So if we're not investing today, then decades from now, we may not have the advances that other countries may have."
Hawley's talk was the first of a series called CLAS ACTS, sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and aimed at sharing KU's intellectual capital with the community, said Joseph Steinmetz, dean of the college.
"The goal is outreach, to make sure that the general public in Lawrence and surrounding communities can have opportunity to interact with the faculty here," Steinmetz said.