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Reaching for the stars: Love of space brings two local residents together

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As vast, timeless and limitless as space is, it has brought together two different people who enjoy its mysteries above all else. 

Now a 13-year resident of Cedar Park, Donald Schliesser’s skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics leading the Houston native to the The Presidio of San Francisco in 1957 during his time in the U.S. Army. There, Schliesser became involved with the Nike Missile Organization. During the tense years of the Cold War, from 1953 to 1979, the United States Army built and operated close to 300 Nike missile sites in the United States. These sites were designed as the last line of defense against Soviet bombers. There were 16 missiles in the Bay Area, which Schliesser was assigned to protect, care and keep for three and a half years. Throughout his life, Schliesser, 83, has been a tinkerer and collector of gadgets.

“I have an avid interest in all sorts of things electronic,” he said. “I am a HAM-radio operator and I’ve enjoyed using my telescope.”

With a desire to know what lay beyond Earth’s atmosphere, Schliesser bought the state-of-the-art Celestron-8 telescope in Feb. 1980, which he used heavily throughout the 1980s and 90s. 

“I had a huge interest in space and stars and the cosmos, and so I went out and bought it,” Schliesser continued. “Yet, over the past few years, I haven’t used it that much. It’s been sitting up in the attic, gathering dust. My kids, my grandkids, they just weren’t that interested in it. Then, I found out about Mason Azios and I thought that this would just make the perfect gift for him because he would really put it to good use. The telescope still has every bell and whistle you could get at that time.”

Amidst one of the many rain showers passing through town, Schliesser invited Mason and his family to his Cedar Park home to personally give him the telescope on Sept. 14. With a mirror 8 inches in diameter, the telescope has advanced capabilities, able to view and take pictures of stars, planets, moons, galaxies and other cosmic objects.

“This telescope had no problem showing me what a tiny, tiny speck I was compared to these giant beautiful planets and galaxies in space,” Schliesser laughed. “So I think Mason will have a lot of fun with it.” 

Azios and Schliesser unboxed the telescope together, bonding over a shared love of space.

“I think this is unbelievable and I’ve always wanted to have a telescope,” Azios said. “I think it’s unbelievable because I’ve dreamed every day to be able to use one of these because I want to be an astronaut one day. Today, it’s actually happening.”

“When I learned about you,” Schliesser smiled as he told Azios. “I thought, “what a neat young man! This thing has been in up in my attic and I’m not going to use it any time soon so I need to find out if he would like it. And here you are.” 

Azios, a sixth grader at Wiley Middle School, said he plans to use the telescope for his studies and will invite friends to use it for recreation. Azios recently attended Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., where America's space program all began. There, he worked with a team of his peers to tackled various mission scenarios that required critical problem solving and rational thinking throughout the week of July 15 to July 19.

Though space seems so distant and intangible, it certainly has the capacity to bring people together.

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