- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - In 1961, after NASA shot Alan Shepard into space, a 9-year-old boy named Steve Hawley asked his mother to buy him a dime-store telescope.

Several years and several telescopes later, he asked his mother and father to help pay for college. To study astronomy.

Some parents might ask how staring at stars would get him a job. But Bernie and Jeanne Hawley said yes.

Steve Hawley became the astronomer and astronaut who used the robot arm of the space shuttle Discovery in 1990 to lift the Hubble Space Telescope out of the cargo bay while flying in orbit at 17,398 mph.

Hubble weighed 11 tons. At 43 feet it was the length of a large school bus. And Steve Hawley, from Salina, parked it expertly in space, 360 miles above Earth.

The Hubble has made what scientists say are the most astonishing discoveries in human history. It’s still up there making more.

Hawley has a unique relationship with the Hubble. He deployed it, repaired it years later in space. Now he is one of the long list of scientists who get to tap on an office keyboard and tell Hubble what to look for.

John Hawley, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Virginia, can list many other historic Hubble discoveries off the top of his head:

-The age of the universe: 13.7 billion years.

-Vivid, compelling evidence that everything in creation started with a Big Bang.

-Compelling evidence that the universe is expanding, and rapidly.

-Evidence that there is “dark energy,” a force driving that accelerated expansion, just as Einstein briefly theorized.

John Hawley, a theoretical astrophysicist based at the University of Virginia, is Steve Hawley’s younger brother. When they were kids in Salina, Steve would buy a newer and bigger telescope “and pass the hand-me-down telescope to me,” John said

One day John Hawley went to Jeanne and Bernie and told them he wanted to study astronomy and physics, and not at the affordable University of Kansas, where Steve went. John wanted to attend Haverford, a private college outside Philadelphia.

The family still didn’t have much money. Bernie was a minister; Jeanne taught piano lessons at home.

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