I’ll Fly Away

For the past week, I’ve had the Alison Krauss & Gilian Welch song, “I’ll Fly Away,” stuck in my head. This fabulous song is one that I hope someone will remember to play when I die, but… beyond that… I’m wondering what my subconscious is trying to tell me about my upcoming trip to Europe.

I’ll fly away // To that home on Gods celestial shore // I’ll fly away

Today, I’m leaving behind Edwardsville and my home outside St Louis, and I’m embarking on a 35 day trip to Europe. From STL to ORD to HEL, I’m traveling to the European Week of Astronomy and Space Sciences conference in Turku Finland. From there, I’ll be continuing on to Lisbon, Portugal to work with colleagues, and then I’ll be attending the Global Hands on Universe meeting in Velos, Greece.

Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly // I’ll fly away

I feel a bit like I’m running away from the prison of budgets and paperwork that is consuming me and my entire team. Things are bleak, and I’m flying away, leaving it all behind. Admittedly, I’m going on this trip in hopes of bringing in new funding, and defining new opportunities for all of us at CosmoQuest. If all goes well, I’ll be able to cement together collaborations that started during the 2009 International Year of Astronomy (IYA), and have continued ever sense as collaborations of mutual support. Now, we’re looking to go to the next level, and instead of working side by side in a supportive way, we’re looking to work on the same things in order to help us build a something greta for science and science education. Perhaps, if all goes well, I’ll be able to break down these prison walls that bind us, and let our programs soar on funding free of the perils and paperwork of US Federal funding.

Oh how glad and happy when we meet // I’ll fly away

I’ll  be traveling and working with Rosa Doran on this trip. She is someone I’ve often heard referred to as a force of nature, and I think that’s entirely true. She is, quite simply, someone who gets things done irregardless of barriers. During IYA, she lead the non-US aspects of the Galileo Teacher Training Program, and while the US programs waited to see funding would be coming, she went out and spend what pennies she could find under proverbial rocks to begin educating teachers all across the world. 1000s of teachers later, she is someone I see changing the world for the better. From Africa to South America to North America to Europe, her programs know few boundaries. I’m going to learn from her, and to learn how to make CosmoQuest a meaningful partner in her work through a combination of shared programs and grants.

No more cold iron shackles on my feet // I’ll fly away

As I’ve written about a lot in the past few months, the future of astronomy and astronomy education is shackled with the burdens of limited funding. I darkly foresee a great pruning taking place in the coming months, where niche programs are cancelled, and where all but the best and most versatile (‘and’ not ‘or’) are laid off one by one.

I’m not going to lie: I’m scared about the future. That said, I have a team I love, and during IYA, I learned who are the people in our global community who can get things done and keep thing moving forward. I see the old team not just coming together over and over for new things, but staying together as mutually support our programs. From serving on the IAU commission 55, to organizing the Communicating Astronomy Meeting, to keeping so many of our programs going across the years, we continue to engage people in learning and doing astronomy. Through continued excellence, and through community trust and support, I can only hope that we can live past these troubles and find a new tomorrow where we are free to focus on doing rather than on fundraising.

(Oh – and if you want to help is reach that day sooner, donate)

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