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Knowledge of universe increases his testimony

For Gary Anderson, the existence of the universe and its astounding features adds to his testimony of the gospel - on a daily basis.

Anderson, science mission manager for the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., the company that operates the Hubble Space Telescope, spends many hours at work viewing the universe from the eyes of the telescope.And it is his knowledge of the gospel that makes his job that more meaningful.

"My knowledge of the gospel gives purpose to our existence and to the universe," he said. "At this institute we have so many astronomers and engineers who have made a career of science and who see that there is so much out there, but they know no reason for its existence. The gospel gives reason for our existence and for the existence of the universe."

The Hubble Space Telescope - launched last April - is 43 feet long and 14 feet in diameter and weighs about 25,000 pounds. The telescope has been touted as the most valuable astronomical instrument ever built.

The telescope hasn't been without problems, however. After the telescope was launched, scientists discovered that its primary mirror was shaped incorrectly and prevented the telescope from focusing properly.

But it still remains the best optical telescope available, having taken the clearest picture ever of mysterious Pluto and showing a spectacular view of the ringed planet Saturn. NASA plans to correct the mistake during a special mission in 1993.

The telescope is able to detect light sources 25 times fainter than is possible with ground-based telescopes. And objects in space are visible with 10 times as much detail as ever before through the Hubble telescope, according to NASA officials.

"The other night in the observation area we were noticing an astroid," Anderson explained. "It wasn't what we were looking for, but it came across the screen. It was exciting! Through the telescope, we were actually looking up there into the voids of space, millions of miles from the earth.

"The universe holds me in awe," he continued. "There is so much of the creation that is out there, much more than the Earth we are a part of. It's humbling. It makes me realize that man is like dust. There is so much of God's creations that we don't even realize. Even 100 years ago we knew so little about the universe. We have learned so much in this century about what the universe is."

Through the Hubble Space Telescope, orbiting about 350 miles above the earth, scientists are able to get an unobstructed view of the heavens without the distortions of the earth's atmosphere.

More than 400 pictures have been taken from the telescope, giving astronomers a detailed look at distant galaxies and leading to the discovery of millions of new stars. The clearest shots ever taken of Pluto and Sharon, the satellite that circles Pluto, have been captured on film by the telescope.

Most recently, scientists watched a gigantic storm blow across Saturn at more than 1,000 mph, sending ammonia clouds billowing 150 miles into space. The storm was 1 1/2 times wider than earth.

As science mission manager, Anderson manages an around-the-clock operation as the telescope orbits in space. He is in charge of the institute's three levels of activity - daily operation, observation science support and post-observation data archiving.

He also interfaces between the three groups, directing and coordinating activity between operations and the scientists.

Anderson, membership clerk in the Randolph Ward, Silver Spring Maryland Stake, became interested in the study of the universe when he was in third grade.

"I found a book on astronomy and was very fascinated with the concepts astronomy presented. The idea of studying vast distances light years away was exciting.

"Sometimes the idea of science, especially astronomy, makes me feel like Abraham, in a sense, by exploring God's territory. It can be so far away from the Earth sometimes. I had this same feeling as a Boy Scout camping away from the city and seeing the stars."

The oldest of eight children, Anderson, 46, grew up in Burley, Idaho. He served in the Texas Dallas Mission and then received a bachelor's degree from BYU. Because of poor math skills, he decided to major in psychology.

Then a second time around, he improved his math skills and got straight A's at the University of Arizona. He graduated with bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and in astronomy at the university.

Looking back, he's glad he didn't give up on math and is proud of his skills. He has even tutored co-workers in calculus and differential equations.

Anderson's experience in the space program has given him a chance to be a part of adventures that many people only dream of. During his time with NASA at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, he was a mission controller during the first three space shuttle flights.

"Now they go so often, but that first one was breathtaking," he remarked.

As an engineer at Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., he received the NASA Tech Brief Award, NASA Significant Contribution Award and Space Act Award as co-inventor of a device used to measure low and high velocities in wind tunnels.

Since 1984, he has been employed by contract companies working for NASA. At Lockheed Engineering and Sciences Co., he helped plan and develop experiments to go on board Spacelab and the space shuttle.

"Sometimes I'll stop and realize I'm pretty lucky doing what I want to do. Plus I'm getting paid for it.

"When you study astronomy, you see that eternity is a very long time. You see that with astronomy more than any other science."

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