(From release) The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAHuntsville) announced today that is has been selected as one of two finalists in the nationwide competition to host the Directorate Site of the National Solar Observatory Program (NSO).
The NSO is the nation's premier ground-based scientific research program to study solar physics and space weather, and is operated under the auspices of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
UAHuntsville and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center were the primary developers in the community’s proposal to relocate the NSO headquarters to Huntsville. Other members of Team Huntsville include the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Sci-Quest, Alabama A&M, Oakwood University, as well as other southeast regional universities, private sector companies and government laboratories.
Today’s announcement is the newest step in a competitive process established in 2010. Formal proposals were solicited at the end of December last year, and the NSO selection committee made a site visit to Huntsville in February. Seven other university-led teams were vying for the project. Only two teams remain — UAHuntsville and the University of Colorado in Boulder.
"Huntsville has long-been one of the most notable research centers for solar and space weather physics,” said the proposal's Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Gary Zank, a member of UAHuntsville's Physics Department and director of the university’s Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research. “We believe our proposal offers a very convincing value proposition, integrating one of the world's most compelling technological communities, NASA-Marshall’s world-class research expertise, an exceptional research university, a very low cost of living and doing business and an exceptional high quality of life.”
Dr. Zank, along with Dr. Elizabeth Newton from the UAHuntsville Center for System Studies, were responsible for the overall proposal effort.
"We are very pleased to have 'Team Huntsville' selected as a finalist," said Dr. Newton. “The entire community — including Governor Bentley, Mayor Tommy Battle, the Chamber of Commerce, the Airport Authority, colleagues at Redstone Arsenal, and in Cummings Research Park — has worked very hard to get to this point. But there is still much to be done, and we'll be working closely with the community and our proposal partners as we enter this final stage of the competition, one we intend to win."
If successful, the relocation of the NSO to Huntsville would bring nearly 70 scientists, engineers, and program managers to Huntsville, establishing the first major presence of a major NSF program in the state of Alabama.
"NSO is also an exceptional example of how the state of Alabama can use its high-powered scientific and technology research to fortify our economic development,” said Dr. Malcolm Portera, chancellor of the University of Alabama System and Interim President at UAHuntsville. “This would not only be a technological feather in the cap of our state, but these kinds of jobs, achievable only because of the intellectual research horsepower of Huntsville and the state, represent an important piece of our overall economic development portfolio."