Brain-injured patients are exploring the stars with a
click of a computer mouse, thanks to a special hands-on,
interactive NASA education program.

Through Telescopes In Education, sponsored by NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA, patients are no
longer limited by their physical barriers, and are free to
stretch their imaginations.

In May, a dozen patients who suffered severe head injuries,
took control of a science-grade reflecting telescope located
at the Mount Wilson Observatory, high above the Los Angeles
basin in the San Gabriel Mountains. Using the Internet,
patients at Delta Rehabilitation Facility for the Severely
Head-Injured in Snohomish, WA, downloaded digital images of
nine deep space objects, including several galaxies and star

The director of Internet Services for the Brain Injury
Association of Washington, Paul Walsh, and his wife, Valarie,
began teaching basic astronomy to a roomful of Delta residents
nearly one year ago. Walsh discovered the patients were an
eager and attentive group of students.

“People who have sustained a major brain injury often have a
keen and hungry intelligence that has been masked and hidden
behind the devastation caused by their injuries,” Walsh said.
“I had a hunch astronomy might be a way to help tear down the
walls, not just mental and emotional, but literally the
physical walls that separate the residents of Delta from the
outside world.”

The program allows educators and students around the world to
remotely control research-quality telescopes and charge-
coupled device cameras created at JPL and located at the Mount
Wilson Observatory. All they need is a computer modem and
special astronomy software.

Educators and students from all over the world get hands-on,
real-time interaction from the comfort of their classrooms.
This type of interaction enables students to increase their
knowledge of astronomy, astrophysics, and mathematics; improve
their computer literacy and strengthen their critical thinking
skills. Hundreds of schools in the United States and around
the world, including Australia, Canada, England and Japan,
have used the telescope successfully over the past seven

In 1999, the program enabled more than 10,850 students,
located in 25 states, to conduct astronomical observations and
meaningful research. Use of the system is free except for the
purchase of the remote software, which controls the telescope.

The Delta rehabilitation facility is associated with and
supports the Brain Injury Association, whose mission is to
create a better future through brain injury prevention,
research, education and advocacy. The prime mission at Delta
Rehab is to help residents “live life,” all of it. To that
end, the staff, family members and volunteers from the
surrounding community do their best to bring life and
stimulation right to the residents.

Telescopes In Education is a NASA education outreach program
sponsored by NASA’s High Performance Computing and
Communications Learning Technologies Program, the Office of
Space Science, and the Office of Human Resources and
Education. JPL space exploration missions, businesses, and
numerous volunteers also support the program. Managed for NASA
by the California Institute of Technology, JPL is the lead
U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system.

“We are sincerely grateful to JPL and Mount Wilson for the
Telescopes In Education Program. It’s one of the best down-to-
earth ideas they’ve ever come up with,” added Walsh. “The
program is all about tying people to the stars; the young, the
disabled, the city bound and the imagination bound.”

Information on the Telescopes In Education program is
available at:

Delta Rehab information on this special project and a link to
the Brain Injury Association Web site is located at: