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Colorado space partnership to benefit UH Hilo students

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Date: Thursday, March 27, 2008
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

Students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the Colorado School of Mines, located in Golden, Colorado, will work together on space research at both campuses and at the new space research center on Hawai`i, called Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), according to a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed April 4, 2008 in Colorado.

UH Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng and School of Mines President Bill Scoggins will sign the agreement establishing a partnership between the two schools, which will greatly expand space research opportunities for faculty, undergraduate and graduate students at both schools.

UH Hilo is home to PISCES, which is dedicated to developing technologies that will enable humans to sustain life on another planet. Colorado School of Mines is home to the Center for Space Resources, which focuses on using the natural resources of space, also called in situ resource utilization, to make air and water, and to meet all human needs for survival on the moon and beyond.

PISCES was established and partially funded by the Hawai`i State Legislature in 2007. The organization is working with community and cultural leaders and educators to build on the Hawaiian history of voyaging in the preparation of future voyages into space. The space center plans to build a simulated lunar outpost on the Big Island where the ash and rock surface resembles the surface of the moon. Its labs will serve space agencies, commercial partners and entrepreneurs from the Pacific Rim and around the world that plan space mission involvement. PISCES has obtained research agreements with NASA in the areas of rover testing and in situ resource utilization.

PISCES was conceived by the Japan-U.S. Science, Technology and Space Applications Program under the auspices of the State of Hawai`i. The new center is led by Dr. Frank Schowengerdt, former director of the NASA Research Partnership Centers and professor of physics at UH Hilo, and by Dr. Robert Fox, chair of the department of physics and astronomy at UH Hilo. A cultural advisory committee made up of native Hawaiians and representatives of all facets of the community helps guide PISCES decision-making.

“We are planning robust research programs in robotics, solar energy, in situ resource utilization, and education,” said Schowengerdt. “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.”

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 research on how to survive on the moon and Mars. Students work with Lockheed Martin on equipment designed to produce oxygen from the 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 Tseng. “We welcome the opportunity to be a part of information and education exchanges like this one.

“This partnership is a natural extension of our space-related initiatives that are made possible by the Big Island’s unique living, learning laboratory,” she added. “From the world’s most important collection of telescopes atop Mauna Kea, to our `Imiloa Astronomy Center, to PISCES, UH Hilo has taken its place on the cutting edge in this exciting field.”

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