(The following is an open letter to Greater New Milford-area residents from the volunteers at the McCarthy Observatory on the campus of New Milford High School.)

Dear friends of the McCarthy Observatory:

We who have followed the shuttle program for most of our adult lives are both thrilled by the achievements in furthering space science and saddened by the end of the shuttle era.

The accomplishments of this fleet and its amazing crews over the 30 years since Columbia first flew in April 1981 are legion, and will be forever etched in the lore of space exploration.

Some highlights are included in this edition of the almanac, along with comments on the means of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station after the final shuttle voyage.

There was a very fine article about the shuttle history written by Robert Miller in the Danbury News-Times on June 21: http://www.newstimes.com/default/article/Danbury-companies-mark-end-of-the-Space-Shuttle-1433727.php.

The article features some of the shuttle artifacts the McCarthy Observatory has received from the shuttle program. We expect that to continue in the future, and hopefully expand to include other NASA programs such as Apollo and previous pathfinder programs.

We anticipate receiving a flown shuttle nose gear assembly sometime in the near future to complement the artifacts we have been adding to our displays.

We hope you take the time to learn about each one when you have the opportunity to visit.

Our Second Saturday Stars program this month was for students to learn how to observe and sketch the nighttime sky and chronicle their observation in their own astronomy journals.

Have a great summer, and please drop by and see the amazing "1,000 Suns for New Milford" sunflower garden at the observatory. Sixty varieties of sunflowers are growing very fast, and we expect the first blooms this month.

All these came from seedlings planted and nurtured by elementary school children in New Milford. You will hear about our plans for harvest time in the next edition of this journal.

All-volunteer staff

McCarthy Observatory

New Milford