Hawai`i space partnership opens doors for School of Mines students

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Hawai`i space partnership opens doors for School of Mines students

March 19, 2008 -- Students at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden and the University of Hawai`i at Hilo will work together on space research at both campuses and at a new international space research center on the Big Island of Hawai`i, according to a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed April 4 in Golden.

School of Mines President Bill Scoggins and University of Hawai`i at Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng will sign the agreement establishing a partnership between the two schools on Friday, April 4, at 2:30 p.m. at the Geology Museum on the Mines campus. The agreement will greatly expand space research opportunities for faculty, undergraduate and graduate students at both schools.

Colorado School of Mines is home to the Center for Space Resources, which focuses on using the natural resources of space, called in situ resource utilization, to enable future astronauts to survive on the moon and beyond. The University of Hawai`i at Hilo is home to the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), which was established and initially funded by the Hawai`i state legislature in 2007. 

PISCES is dedicated to developing technologies that will enable humans to sustain life on another planet. The organization plans to build a simulated lunar outpost on the Big Island of Hawai`i, where the volcanic ash and rock surface resemble the surface of the moon. The center will house research labs for space agencies, commercial partners and entrepreneurs around the world who plan space mission involvement. PISCES has obtained research agreements with NASA in the areas of rover technology and in situ resource utilization. The center also expects to attract commercial partners who can benefit from space research and technology.

PISCES is led by Dr. Frank Schowengerdt, former director of NASA’s Research Partnership Centers, and Dr. Robert Fox, head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Hilo. Schowengerdt also established and served as director of the School of Mines space center.

“Because of the lunar-like surface at the proposed PISCES research center in Hawai`i, our work in using space resources to sustain life on the moon will play a significant role in future space exploration,” said Schowengerdt. “We are planning robust programs in robotics, solar energy, in situ resource utilization, and education,” he said. “Almost anything you would do at an outpost in space will be an opportunity for research and development at PISCES, and we need good students who want to pursue space science to be a part of this work,” he said.

Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Colorado School of Mines Center for Space Resources, said the partnership is perfect for their students, who are already involved in extensive research on how to survive on the moon and Mars. The center works with Lockheed Martin on equipment designed to produce oxygen from lunar rocks and soil. Mines students also have been involved in developing a special membrane that will one day help astronauts make methane fuel on Mars for their return flight to Earth.

“The number of Hawai`i students interested in space exploration is rapidly growing,” said Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng. “We welcome the opportunity to be a part of information and technology exchanges like this one.”


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