Our History


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Originally selected by NASA for its isolated location in the Pisgah National Forest, PARI was established in September 1998 as a not-for-profit public organization dedicated to providing hands-on educational, business and research opportunities for users and lovers of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.

Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest is established, becoming the birthplace of science-based forestry management.
NASA opens the Rosman Tracking Station
As one of the two best-equipped stations in NASA’s Spacecraft Tracking And Data Acquisition Network (STADAN), Rosman played a vital role in the space program, communicating with satellites and manned space flights as they passed over the East Coast.
Rosman’s First Picture
In 1967, the western 26m radio telescope received world's first color photo of the full Earth from space.
Rosman’s First TV Transmission
Rosman’s telescopes receive the first TV transmission from space.
The Department of Defense
The Department of Defense begins using the site to collect satellite data and intercept Russian satellite communications throughout the Cold War. The “smiley” face on PARI’s 4.6m radio telescope was painted as a joke during the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union was intensely interested in the DOD base and often sent satellites to photograph the campus. Each Soviet photo contained a “smiley face” as a friendly wave.
DOD Ceases Operations
The facility closes and DOD operations are consolidated elsewhere. Of the 23 antennae, 19 were moved to other locations and most of the instrumentation and electronics were removed from the site. However, the bulk of the infrastructure remained, including the two signature 26 meter (85 ft.) dish antennas, and was maintained by the USDA Forest Service.
Don Cline Visits
Don Cline visits the facility for the first time.
PARI was born
After several years of inactivity at the site, the government decides to dismantle the facility and leave it to be maintained by USDA Forest Service. Recognizing the tremendous value and potential for the site, Don and Jo Cline stepped in. In 1998, the Clines acquired the 200-acre facility and the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) was born:, a not-for-profit public organization dedicated to educating future generations of scientists.
Construction for Optical Telescope
PARI constructs building and dome for PARI's first optical telescope on the Optical Ridge, initially used by Mercedes Lopez-Morales.
PARI's first planetarium presentation to students
PARI’s first portable planetarium programs are presented to Transylvania County Schools students as a pilot program.
PARI holds it's first summer camp
PARI partners with the Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP) to create a summer field study camp. Today, PARI continues to offer a summer space camp based on the Duke TIP programming (Above and Beyond), as well as other space and STEM summer camps.
Smiley becomes available for online use by researchers and educators.
Smiley and the 12.2m radio telescope remain two of the very few internet-controllable radio telescopes in the world.
APDA was Founded
The Astronomical Photographic Data Archive (APDA) was founded at PARI and becomes a resource for scientists, researchers and students across the globe.
PARI's Solar Power project
Phase 1 of PARI's Solar Power project begins providing off-grid reliable solar and wind power to the instruments on the Optical Ridge.
Space Telescope Science Institute donates GAMMA-I and GAMMA-II
Space Telescope Science Institute donates two high-precision photographic plate scanners, used to generate the Hubble Space Telescope Guide Star Catalog. These two behemoths, named GAMMA-I and GAMMA-II are the cornerstones of the scanning capabilities of APDA.
SCOPE Initiated
Citizen science project SCOPE (Stellar Classifications Online Public Exploration) initiated.
3D Printing at PARI
PARI begins to offer 3D printing to our guests and researchers.
PARI connects to NCREN & helps provide internet access to the region
PARI is connected to the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) as part of the Golden Leaf Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI), helping to provide top-tier education internet access to Western North Carolina.
October - DIRV’s First Observation
The Dedicated Interferometer for Rapid Variability (DIRV), a project partnering PARI and UNC-Asheville, first observes a compact extragalactic source in S-Band as an interferometer.
PARI's 12.2m dish is first used by students
PARI's 12.2 meter dish, built for the US Army by Hughes Aircraft in the late 1960's for satellite communications, is first used by students to observe hydrogen at 1.42GHz. This instrument is now PARI's flagship radio telescope for education programs.
PARI’s first 1.42GHz data of the total solar eclipse
PARI records the first 1.42GHz data of the total solar eclipse with large radio telescopes.
Rosemary Roosa presents PARI with a “Moon Tree”
Astronaut Stuart Roosa, Command Module Pilot of the Apollo 14 mission, carried seeds into space. His daughter, Rosemary Roosa, presents PARI with a “Moon Tree,” descended from trees whose seeds have traveled to the Moon!

PARI Campers Enjoy New Cabins
Summer campers enjoy our new cabins, built using wood from the trees of the Pisgah National Forest.
PARI Introduces Home Learning Initiative - Space Kits
PARI creates Space Science At Home, a space kit initiative that bring real space science research to back yards and kitchen tables. Kit packages include instructional video, access to industry experts and on-line labs with research grade telescopes.
PARI provides inspiration and education for the next generation of thinkers.
PARI engages learners and educators at all levels and provides institutions and businesses with unique research and service facilities. The culmination of these efforts provide the inspiration and education for the next generation of thinkers.


October 28th, 2023 marked sixty years since the NASA began operations at the Rosman Tracking Station

Since then the day to day operations have changed many times, but the mission of bringing humans closer to what lies above us has remained the same.  

Help Support Our Education Mission into Future

View our limited anniversary edition space inspired collection of hand crafted glassware.

Become a supporter of PARI's education programs and space science camps.