Barry Armstead is a man on a mission.
The former soldier, now tree surgeon, photographer and space enthusiast is building a large scale observatory in his front yard in southern Canberra, where he plans to share the wonders of the universe with others.
Mr Armstead's two-storey, domed observatory is just a steel cage at the moment but his aim is to get it finished by November.
''Academically, we know these things, we get taught in school, read books and watch TV specials and all know what's up there, but when you see it for yourself for the first time through the looking glass it completely changes everything,'' he said.
Mr Armstead said in planning the structure he had run into little opposition from the council or from neighbours, some of whom had helped him throughout the process.
Learning about space has been an emotional and spiritual process for Mr Armstead, who said it had confirmed for him the existence of a creator God.
''I want to show people that there's hope, that it's not all for nothing, that's my little way of doing it.''
When it is completed, Mr Armstead will encourage people to contact him to use the observatory free of charge, and would be posting advice online about building an observatory and astrophotography.
Mr Armstead said he has aimed to keep costs to a minimum, but he was accepting online donations towards the completion of the project.
He said he sometimes questioned whether people's donations could be better directed towards a children's charity, but said his aim was to give people hope, which would have broad-reaching effects in the community.
Mr Armstead served in the Australian Army for 16 years and had returned home from a stint in East Timor with money to spend.
He had always had an interest in space and science fiction, so rather than splurging on a new car, as many of his colleagues had done, Mr Armstead bought a telescope, and then splashed out on a bigger, better one, for $10,000. ''I just wanted to spend money on something that was going to last me, that I could learn from, that I could maybe outgrow and upgrade, so when a telescope hit me, I thought, of course, that's it,'' he said.
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