Summit County woman involved with soon-to-be world’s largest telescope
In July, Janesse Brewer traveled to India, next week she’ll go to Japan and next year the Summit County resident will visit China. All in the name of a new telescope in Hawaii.
Brewer, 42, of Summit Cove, has worked for the last seven years with the creators of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a multi-national $1.4 billion project which will break ground Tuesday, Oct. 7, near the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
She said the telescope, which should finish construction in 2022, will be the largest in the world, and its size will allow observations and discoveries today’s scientists can only imagine.
The TMT International Observatory also is a first-of-its-kind astronomical partnership between universities, observatories and national institutes in the U.S., China, Japan, India and Canada.
“My job has been to work with experts from the five countries to develop the workforce education and outreach approach that everyone wants to be just as world class and relevant as the scientific discoveries that are anticipated,” she said.
During Tuesday’s groundbreaking and blessing ceremony, access to the TMT construction site will be limited due to the area’s sensitive environment and harsh physical conditions. However, the ceremony will be accessible via a live-stream webcast, available at tmt.org/buildingTMT, and George Takei, known for his role in the television series Star Trek, will present pre-recorded science segments.
“This is an exciting moment as we begin construction of TMT. Its giant mirror, nearly 100 feet across, promises the highest definition views of planets orbiting nearby stars and the first stars and galaxies in the distant universe,” said Edward Stone, executive director of the TMT International Observatory.
Major funding for the telescope has been provided by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty.
Based in Summit County, Brewer got involved with the telescope through her job with The Keystone Center, a nonprofit in Keystone that does policy negotiation and mediation in environmental, health and education issues around the world.
Brewer worked there for 18 years until 2013, and she worked on space issues, like when NASA was trying to send spacecrafts further into the solar system for exploration.
The best way to do that involved some controversial nuclear energy, she said, and though the technology was considered safe, people brought up environmental and health concerns.
Her network and expertise on space issues led to the TMT creators approaching her for help.
Native Hawaiians consider Mauna Kea a sacred mountain, Brewer said, and though the mountain already has about a dozen telescopes, many locals oppose more development there.
The community also had concerns about how the telescope would affect the local workforce and partner with universities, schools and other organizations, so about seven years ago, Brewer traveled to Hawaii and conducted on-the-ground interviews with stakeholders.
Those conversations influenced the way the TMT International Observatory went about business.
“TMT has made a commitment to the people of Hawaii to work within a plan created by the Office of Mauna Kea Management for responsible development on Mauna Kea,” said Sandra Dawson, TMT’s manager of Hawaii Community Affairs. “Respect for the community and Mauna Kea is the cornerstone of our continuing stewardship.”
More recently, TMT’s leaders approached Brewer and her new policy facilitation and mediation company, 23.4 Degrees, to help with public outreach in the five partner countries.
For the last two years, Brewer has been helping coordinate the international group’s approach to education, workforce development and communications. That means she has been visiting the countries with TMT staff and looking for common goals the partners might want to focus on, like education system challenges and workforce deficiencies.
“We’ve been having that conversation by country,” she said. “We’ve been saying, ‘That’s what it looks like in the U.S. Tell us, India, what does it look like in India?’”
Though Brewer’s work is mostly national and international, she said she is starting to reach out more locally.
In early September she guest lectured for a Colorado Mountain College class about her work with industry, educator and activist stakeholders after the documentary “Blackfish” created controversy around whale and dolphin captivity.
This Friday, Oct. 10, Brewer will draw on her experience mediating a $350 million mining project in Papua New Guinea to speak about women and negotiating at the 5th annual Northwest Colorado Women’s Small Business Conference at Copper Mountain.
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