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NASA and Academia

 

 

America’s colleges and universities have always been a key component in the nation’s pursuit of technological leadership, from the NACA’s development and support of aviation to NASA’s goals in space. As the space agency redefines itself and its goals for the 21st century, it has renewed its outreach to academia to levels akin to those during the early decades of the Space Age.

Academic participation is sought or encouraged through such efforts as the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES), Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), Minority University Research & Education Project (MUREP), MUREP Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO), NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowships, Discovery Program Office Announcements of Opportunity, Aerospace Research and Career Development (ARCD), and more.

From the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo missions that ultimately put 12 U.S. astronauts on the moon, to Skylab, to 30 years of space shuttle missions, to the year-round manning of the International Space Station, NASA has sent nearly 300 men and women into space and charged the imaginations of millions of children and adults. Hundreds of unmanned missions have done the same, from the Hubble Space Telescope, to robotic landings on the Moon and Mars, to deep-space probes focusing on the sun, the four inner planets (including Earth observation), the four outer giants and their moons, the asteroid belt, Pluto and its fellow dwarf planets and smaller bodies in the Kuiper Belt and, with Voyager 1 and 2, space beyond the solar system.

In each of those programs, students and professors at universities throughout the nation have been involved through grants, internships, fellowships, and contracts, greatly expanding NASA’s knowledge base, offering new ideas and innovations and, in many cases, eventually becoming part of NASA’s in-house workforce. The various NASA efforts with academia also help these schools expand their own abilities to teach new generations of students, expand their science and R&D facilities, and better compete with other institutions by staying on the cutting edge of space and aeronautical technology.

Dr. Sukesh Aghara, left, gives graduate students Khoie Pavastoo and Ruben Gener instruction on instrument calibration at a Center for Radiation Engineering and Science for Space Exploration (CRESSE) lab at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. Aghara heads radiation transport simulation activities for the NASA center. NASA image

Dr. Sukesh Aghara, left, gives graduate students Khoie Pavastoo and Ruben Gener instruction on instrument calibration at a Center for Radiation Engineering and Science for Space Exploration (CRESSE) lab at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. Aghara heads radiation transport simulation activities for the NASA center. NASA image

NASA’s outreach to academia is broad-based, working with universities, colleges, even community colleges, of all types and levels. It also includes a number of programs designed to encourage those who have been under represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Academic participation is sought or encouraged through such efforts as the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES), Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), Minority University Research & Education Project (MUREP), MUREP Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO), NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowships, Discovery Program Office Announcements of Opportunity, Aerospace Research and Career Development (ARCD), and more.

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...