The aim of The Spaceguard Centre is to develop and maintain a world-class facility for astronomical research and science education with a view to furthering the goals of Public Understanding of Science with a specific emphasis on the Spaceguard project.
What this means is that we want to bring the wonders of the universe to everyone in a fun and understandable way. At the same time we want to raise public awareness of the threat of asteroid and comet impacts, and the ways in which we can predict and prevent them.
What is the Spaceguard Project?
The threat posed to mankind by the impact of an asteroid or comet is now widely recognised as one of the most significant risks to human civilisation, yet there is no co-ordinated international effort to identify threatening Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) or to deal with them once detected.
Over the past decade or so it has become apparent that asteroidal and cometary impacts have played a dramatic, possibly leading role in the development of this planet, and the evolution of life. Natural Science is in the throes of a revolution in thinking, akin to that that occurred after the publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”. With this understanding comes the realisation that there is no reason to believe that this extraterrestrial influence is at an end, and the possibility that a major impact could severely disrupt, or even destroy our current way of life on a global scale is one to be considered seriously.
As a result of this ongoing research there is a growing international movement dedicated to quantifying and assessing the risk, and to determining methods of avoiding threatening impacts. While the subject has traditionally suffered from a great deal of scepticism this attitude is now disappearing, and the matter has become one of serious research.
We welcome visitors to the Spaceguard Centre. Come and see our equipment, hear about Spaceguard and learn something about the wonders of astronomy. But beware, a visit to the Spaceguard Centre has been known to change lives!
How we are Funded
The funding for the Spaceguard Centre all comes from the till in the shop. This is enough to maintain the building and equipment, and to pay for utilities. Anne and I do not draw salaries - we live on my Army pension.
The observatory is privately owned, and the Centre was fitted out and equipped at the expense of the owner and ourselves. In 2002 we received a PPARC small award (£1400) for IT equipment to support the Faulkes Telescope Project, but that is the only external support that we have received since opening in 2001.
In 2000 we did apply to become the "National NEO Information Centre" but lost out to the preferred bidder - the National Space Centre in Leicester – as there were doubts over our support for government policy (if there was one we might support it) and our sustainability (10 years later, we are still here)! Sadly the £360K that the NSC received produced a display that is significantly smaller than ours, none of the "regional centres" that were required by the statement of work, and a website that is currently over a year out of date. What could we have done with £360,000 ....... ?
Funding for Project Drax has come entirely from local sponsors (services in kind such as the crane to remove the Schmidt Camera from Cambridge, transport, storage etc.), donations from visitors to the Centre and the efforts of the Marches Astronomy Group.
While we continue to enjoy the moral support of organisations worldwide (including the Spaceguard Foundation, UN AT-14, B612, the MPC, NASA, JPL and the various NEO survey projects worldwide) they are pretty cash-strapped as well!