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Giant Magellan Telescope Luncheon
Houston Club
Houston, Texas

Friday, April 11, 2008

I want to begin by thanking George Mitchell.  Thank you for your vision.  Some people have the ability to gaze far beyond what is close and certain and already accomplished.  They visualize what is invisible to the naked eye, but powerfully clear in the human imagination.  George Mitchell has always been that kind of person. 

A visionary. 

A searcher.    

A leader.

A formidable competitor who always wants the best for Texas. 

A proud Aggie.

We at The University of Texas thank you, George, for your vision and leadership in supporting the “Texas share” of the Giant Magellan Telescope project.  With your eyes on the target, we have confidence that Texas will contribute its fair share to this ambitious project.

I also want to thank President Elsa Murano and the directors, department chairs, and distinguished professors who have joined us this afternoon – from Texas and around the country.  You have all played leadership roles in this project, and we are here to express our gratitude and to cheer you on.  

The Giant Magellan Telescope project is a tantalizing dream.  When it is completed, we will be able to observe the earliest stars in the universe, planets in other solar systems, and supernovae with greater clarity and understanding. 

We Texans have been dreaming and stargazing for a long time.  Since 1939, the remote West Texas site of UT’s McDonald Observatory has provided a magnificent viewing area from which to conduct astronomy research.  And it’s a special place to educate hundreds of thousands of annual visitors who travel there to gaze at the heavens.

McDonald’s Hobby-Eberly Telescope is the third largest telescope in the world.  And we are particularly excited about our work in the field of dark energy, which the journal Science has ranked as the most important science experiment of this decade.

UT Austin is especially pleased that George Mitchell has been an outstanding supporter of our dark energy research, and that Texas A&M is our partner on the project, as they will be on the Giant Magellan project.     

McDonald Observatory proves that in order to really see other worlds, you first have to travel to the edge of this one.  And that brings us to a desert mountaintop in Chile.

UT is honored to be a member of this consortium with six other prestigious institutions.  But we are especially proud to join Texas A&M in what is an unprecedented collaboration between Texas’s two major research universities.  In fact, this may be our most ambitious partnership to date.  When the Texas share of this project gives our researchers firsthand access to the images and information produced by the GMT, then Texas scientists from UT and A&M will help to solve the puzzles that have challenged our imaginations for centuries.  And their discoveries will open the way for bold new science in the generations to come.

That is what we all want here.  A collective effort between great universities.  A Texas share.  Horns and Aggies together in this monumental endeavor.

Thank you again, George Mitchell, for your leadership.  And thank you all for being involved in this magnificent dream.    

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