Contact: Steve Roy
NASA-Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

The National Space Science and Technology Center — a venture that will bring together scientists, engineers and educators — became reality today in Montgomery, Ala., as Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and Art Stephenson, the director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., formally endorsed a partnership agreement to operate the new center.

U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer of Alabama’s 5th Congressional District and Dr. Frank Franz, president of The University of Alabama in Huntsville, joined them in the capitol office for the signing ceremony.

“I am proud to join Congressman Cramer, Mr. Stephenson and Dr. Franz as the state of Alabama and NASA partner to create the National Space Science and Technology Center,” Siegelman said.

“This new facility will allow the best scientists and engineers in the field to work more closely on common goals of technology advancements. The Space Science and Technology Center will be a driving force that will provide expertise and advanced research opportunities never before imagined possible not only for NASA’s mission but also for the growing medical research and medical technology sector in Alabama,” added Siegelman.

“This collaboration will support and enhance Marshall Space Flight Center’s role in America’s space program,” said Stephenson. “This synergy between science, technology and education has the potential to improve space missions, elevate Alabama’s higher-education system to the next level, and even create better consumer products.”

The core facility, located in a 120,000 square-foot facility on Sparkman Drive in Huntsville, opens this month. A 60,000 square-foot laboratory annex is planned in 2001. Once completed, the core facility will house approximately 450 people to include NASA, other government agencies, academia and private industry. In addition, virtual capabilities are located throughout the state and nation at partner facilities.

The signing ceremony at the Governor’s Office in Montgomery today is a critical milestone in a process that began in 1995, when NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin advocated establishing a new science institute in Huntsville.

The center will be operated through a partnership between the Marshall Center and the Alabama Space Science and Technology Alliance — a group of six Alabama universities including the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama A&M University in Normal, Auburn University in Auburn, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

“The National Space Science and Technology Center represents an innovative method in advancing research and education for NASA and Alabama’s research universities,” said Franz. “Large projects often require multi-disciplinary research, and many times a single university will not have all of the expertise necessary to compete on major contracts. The collaboration created through the NSSTC will enhance the competitiveness of Alabama’s research universities seeking research contracts.”

The Marshall Center’s space science and technology expertise will provide the core for the new center, focusing on research in space science, materials science, biotechnology, Earth sciences, propulsion, optics and other areas that support NASA’s mission.

Cramer said, “Today’s signing reinforces North Alabama’s leadership in high technology. This center has great potential to strengthen the education process in the state. We have great minds in Alabama and the center will give their potential room to grow. The center will offer opportunities for collaboration with private industry, other federal agencies and universities from around the world.”