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Reach for the Stars at the Learning Center at PARI

satellite dish under a starry sky

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Looking for an adventure? The Learning Center at PARI will take you on an exploration of the cosmos sure to bring out the astronaut in learners and adventurers of all ages. 


What is the Learning Center at PARI?

In 1963, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) carved out 200 acres of the Pisgah National Forest to establish the Rosman Tracking Station, a facility now known as the Learning Center at PARI. For 32 years, the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute served as an important tool for the USA. 

  • NASA. The station played an important role in the glory days of the space program, communicating signals with satellites and flights as they passed over the east coast. 
  • Department of Defense (DOD). The facility later transitioned to a data collection center that intercepted Soviet signals and other classified missions during the Cold War. 
  • Research and Development. PARI served as a research center that developed various technologies we still use today such as GPS systems, weather satellites and the transmission of television signals. 

Although the facility is no longer an active government site, it still embodies NASA’s motto for the benefit of all by serving as a haven of hands-on education of science and technology.  


Things to do at PARI Learning Center 

Today the Learning Center at PARI offers attractions for the whole family. 

  • Exhibit Galleries. The center showcases special gems and minerals, including meteorites and specimens taken from excursions to Mars and the moon. 
  • Sky Deck. Enjoy the scenic views of the Pisgah National Forest or the glimpse of the cosmos from the large sky deck atop the Learning Center. 
  • Smiley Telescope. The facility’s work with the DOD made them a target for satellite pictures during the Cold War. The famous smiley face on the telescope at PARI was painted as a joke to let the Soviets know they were aware of the spying. 
  • Dining. Enjoy an out of this world meal at Smileys, the Learning Centers own restaurant catering to thousands of visitors a year. 
  • Camping. With several cabins and traditional tents available, as well as hiking trails into the Pisgah National Forest, the Learning Center is perfect for and campers hoping to enjoy the beauty of the forest as well as the wonders above it. 


Educational Value 

While the station has a long history, its purpose now is to educate and inspire learners of all ages to continue to reach for the stars. They do this by offering classes and shows during meteor showers and other astrological events. They also host field trips and internships for high school and college students. However, the best way to experience the campus is to join one of the center’s camps. The camps offer chances for young learners to experience hands-on learning through an exciting camp environment.

The Learning Center at PARI Camps include: 

  • Above and Beyond. Centered around high school students, this camp helps campers grasp the world around them through multiple disciplines including, astrobiology, astronomy, and physics. 
  • Astro Explorer Camp. This camp teaches campers geo-mapping through 3D modeling and printing of planets as well as visual mapping through the use of the center’s optical telescopes. 
  • Operation Nebula. This camp class guides campers through the computer technologies used to study the vastness of space. 

Whether your obsession is with the history, the technology, or just the cosmos, the Learning Center at PARI has everything you could need for an out of this world exploration! 

Located just over an hour away from Waynesville, PARI is the perfect place to learn about constellations visible from the mountain homes at Avalon. Learn more about the many attractions and events ideally located for residents of our gated mountain community right here on our blog.

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