The University of Hawaiʻi Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory Site on Maui and the Mauna Kea Observatories on the island of Hawaiʻi are world renowned.

“The University of Hawaiʻi is extremely fortunate to be the steward of two of the best astronomical sites in the whole world because of the shape of our mountains and our islands,” said Mike Maberry, the assistant director of the UH Institute for Astronomy.

It’s why the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference (AMOS), the premiere space surveillance conference in the nation, has been held in Hawaiʻi every year since 2001. Space situational awareness is the focus—keeping track of manmade space junk and asteroids that could damage or destroy commercial and government satellites.

“Space has become so very, very busy,” said Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham. “It is full of debris. It’s full of flying spacecraft. It is just a very treacherous environment to operate in and the capability for understanding that and managing that resides right here in Maui. So it’s important for us to all get together and talk about that.”

“To be able to contribute to the world by providing these sites, sharing these sites, so we can monitor and catalog the objects we have in space as well as the heavens beyond is just extremely fortunate for the University of Hawaiʻi and for the state of Hawaiʻi,” said Maberry.

The conference attracts the top names in the aerospace industry and aerospace research. General William Shelton, the commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, addressed the 2013 event via teleconference.

The fact that this conference is held on Maui is just one example of Hawaiʻi’s importance in the space industry.

“People coming from all over the world, they think of AMOS conference, when they think of space, they think of Hawaiʻi,” said Maberry.

“The aerospace community and sector in Hawaiʻi is tremendously important,” said Jeanne Unemori Skog, the president and CEO of the Maui Economic Development Board. “It is one of our competitive advantages and we’ve got to take advantage of every single one we can.”

UH researchers and students are also building satellites, developing satellite launch capabilities and participating in long-duration space travel studies.

A 2011 study by UH estimates that the aerospace industry will have brought in over $1.5 billion in 2012 to the state, employing thousands.

“The ability to bring high paying jobs that can stimulate the economy and reduce your reliance on tourism is something that space brings in spades,” said Pulham.

It all fits in with the university’s Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative (HI²) a partnership with the community to build a billion dollar annual research enterprise in Hawaiʻi that will create thousands of jobs and a diversified economy.