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No more stars for Naval Academy

Jan 1, 2003

Celestial navigation will soon be erased from the curriculum at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis if a recommendation by a review board is approved.

The Naval Academy Board of Visitors concluded, among other things, that celestial navigation, which "is seldom used in the fleet," should be eliminated.

"Some people would say that the Naval Academy no longer teaches the slide rule," said Dr. Frederick Davis, associate dean of academic affairs at the Academy. "The curriculum at the Academy is already very full. But some subjects, like celestial, for example, might be taken in more specialized schools outside the Academy."

Celestial navigation is presently included in a broader course on navigation that focuses on electronic methods. All first-year staudents at the Academy, called Plebes, receive a Pentium computer replete with Cap'n-brand software. "I started using the Cap'n program instead of the Rude starfinder when I learned that it could do as much and more," said Capt. William Craft, chairman of the navigation department at the Academy. Using computer programs instead of traditional navigation methods is part of a trend at the Academy, according to Craft, that may eventually include elimination of celestial altogether if the recommendation is approved.

"If we stopped teaching celestial it wouldn't be for some time," Craft added. "But the recommendation has been made and we're taking it very seriously."


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