WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative Xochitl Torres Small announced that New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Department of Astronomy was awarded a $1.5 million grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to hire a space scientist to work on physics of sun and space weather. This funding was awarded through a program called “Faculty Development in the Space Sciences” from the NSF Directorate for Geosciences, Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences.
In the majority of American universities, research and education in the space sciences does not fall under any particular department, leading to a decline of faculty positions dedicated to the education and training of future space scientists. This decrease comes at a time when space scientists are needed to study the way our technical systems — such as GPS and high-speed communications networks — react to conditions in space. This funding award provides universities the support and incentive needed to create new faculty positions in the space sciences.
"This funding will support NMSU’s status as a premier space research hub, and will fund critical research that helps us better understand the way space weather affects our communications, navigation, and energy production on Earth," Udall said. “As we become more reliant on technology that is sensitive to conditions in space, investing in this cutting-edge research is of national importance. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I'm pleased to support the important work of teaching and training the next generation of solar scientists at New Mexico State University, and I’ll continue to fight for resources to empower New Mexico’s growing space-related workforce and economy."
“The Dunn Solar Telescope has a 50 year history of providing scientists with a greater understanding of solar physics and space weather. I’m proud of the work New Mexico State University has done to find new scientific and research opportunities at Sunspot. Over the last five years, I have worked to help steer federal funding and resources to NMSU as it has worked to reinvent this national asset as the premier training site for the next generation of solar scientists. I will continue to support long-term work at the Sunspot facility and New Mexico’s continued leadership and contributions to science,” said Heinrich.
“NMSU-Las Cruces continues to prove itself as a leader in space-related research. I join the rest of the delegation in congratulating them for all the work that led to their selection. It is no small feat that the National Science Foundation selected NMSU-Las Cruces for this important project to grow their Astronomy Department and expand our knowledge of sun and space weather. I look forward to learning the results of their research and how their efforts will impact the growing space business industry in our state,” Torres Small said.