Reach for the Stars

Greenbank is W.Va.’s Celestial Strength

Most West Virginians do not think much about our state’s role in helping us reach for the stars.

We are the home state of one of NASA’s “hidden figures,” the late Katherine Johnson — whose mind was so sharp, some of the early astronauts would trust computer calculations only after she had confirmed them; the late Chuck Yeager, who after breaking the sound barrier became part of a test pilot training program for NASA; Jon McBride, an astronaut who reached the rank of captain; and of course of own “Rocket Boy,” Homer Hickam.

But hidden in a remote pocket of Pocahontas County, in the heart of the U.S. National Radio Quiet Zone, is the Green Bank Telescope and Observatory. Among its most recent discoveries is a previously unknown structure that could extend to the more distant parts of the Milky Way Galaxy.

We’re not talking a new planet or moon, but a structure made up of molecular gas, which would not have been detected without Green Bank.

“The existence of this massive structure has implications for star formation theories, as well as the structure, make-up, and total mass of the interstellar medium,” the GBT reported.

In other words, it — and many other discoveries made right here in our mountains — are a big deal.

We don’t talk enough about the proof West Virginia has the “right stuff” when it comes to location and workforce that will propel our economy into the future. Though too many of our brightest and most capable believe they must leave the state to find jobs that will suit their dreams and skillset, they were raised and educated right here — plenty of them in our own colleges and universities, too. We’ve got the land.

Just ask the folks planning to build the Virgin Hyperloop Certification Center in Grant and Tucker counties.

Perhaps development officials should reach for the stars in playing up what the Mountain State has contributed to the science and technology fields, as they seek to attract new employers who could find the same success.


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