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NASA Inspector: Cut Research Division At Kennedy Space Center

SwampWorks researchers inside a chamber filled with syntheitc regolith used to test new in-situ technology at Kennedy Space Center. Photo: SwampWorks / Facebook

NASA’s Office of Inspector General recommends moving a research division at Kennedy Space Center to Cleveland, Ohio in an effort to streamline the workforce.

The office wants to move in-situ resource utilization research to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. In-situ resource utilization is the ability to use what’s around you, like lunar dust or Martian dirt, to make fuel for rockets or building material for habitats.

The recommendation is an effort to consolidate researchers and employees across NASA’s 10 facilities – giving each center a specific research role. But Phil Larson, former policy adviser to the Obama White House, says when it comes to space innovation, diversity is key.

“Sure have each center have a focus,” said Larson, “but definitely have cross pollinating techniques as well.”

Research at Kennedy Space Center’s SwampWorks division explores in-situ innovation including the development of a 3D printer that uses Martian dirt to build habitats.

In a meeting last year, Senior NASA leaders decided to make Glenn the lead for in-situ resource utilization. A Kennedy spokesperson says since that meeting, it was decided that Kennedy Space Center will support Glenn for as long as its expertise is needed.

“In-situ resource utilization is only one research area within Swamp Works, KSC’s research and technology development laboratory, and it does not mean that KSC will be eliminating this innovative technology development tool,” a Kennedy spokesperson said in an e-mail.

NASA partners with universities across the country, and local schools like UCF, FITand Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, to help develop new, cutting-edge exploration technology.

Phil Larson, now an Assistant Dean at the University of Colorado Boulder, applauds those academics relationships, which could be fractured by a centralized system. “One of the advantages of NASA being spread out is localized partnerships, and being a part of the community,” he said.

The Inspector General’s Office asks administrators to come up with a plan to implement the recommendations by October.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »