NASA 'RETI' to tap universities

After nearly a decade of scaling back its partnerships with higher education because of budget pressures, NASA's fiscal 2002 budget requested up to $15 million a year to establish five university-based Research, Education and Training Institutes.

The RETIs, which will be run by NASA's Office of Aerospace Technology, are intended to research "cutting-edge emerging opportunities in technology" and "expand the nation's talent base for research and development," according to NASA budget documents.

"We want to establish a long-term, significant presence at these universities," said Murray Hirschbein, assistant chief technologist at NASA. The $15 million will be evenly distributed among five schools that will be selected through a competitive process slated to begin in about a month.

Hirschbein said NASA ran a similar program about 10 years ago that was successful, but it eventually lost steam when the space exploration program died down and because of budget concerns.

"Still, the legacy is good and we did it with the half money, but it was a decade ago," he said. "NASA needs to have a stronger presence in universities...and we want to expand it again."

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