NASA selects UCF to lead research center

$6 million center to study asteroids, planets


ORLANDO, Fla. – NASA has awarded the University of Central Florida leadership of a $6 million center that will study asteroids and planets in support of human and robotic exploration.

UCF's Daniel Britt, a physics professor who has designed instruments for Mars rovers, will lead the new Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science, or CLASS, one of nine centers named Tuesday as part of the newly formed Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, which NASA says will focus researchers on questions concerning space science and human space exploration.

"This makes UCF a leader in the area of solar system exploration," Britt said in a university news release. "The center will bring together a group of world-class researchers to create a one-stop shop of scientific expertise, supporting NASA's exploration goals. CLASS makes Central Florida integral to NASA's exploration future."

UCF's winning bid was selected from among 32 proposals submitted to competitive peer-reviewed evaluation.

In addition to Britt, UCF said the center involves 15 lead researchers from the university, the Florida Space Institute, Kennedy Space Center, other NASA centers, and universities around the nation, in addition to 23 collaborating researchers from the U.S. and four other nations.