NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft orbits Mars in this visualization. A 2019 research paper in Science led by CSST’s Mehdi Benna mapped Mars’s global wind patterns, the first time that had been done on any planet (including Earth). Visualization courtesy of NASA.

UMBC to receive over $63 million in NASA renewal of CRESST II space science consortium

Adapted from a UMBC News article written by Sarah Hansen.

NASA has committed $178 million to extend support for the Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science & Technology II (CRESST II) through 2027. Founded in 2006 and renewed in 2016, CRESST II is a partnership between NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and four universities. UMBC and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) are the two primary funding recipients, with UMD leading the consortium. CRESST II also supports researchers at Catholic University of America, Howard University, and the Southeastern Universities Research Association.

New UMBC funding to support these projects will be more than $63 million over five years under the CRESST II renewal. Since the last renewal in 2016, the UMBC arm of the partnership, the Center for Space Sciences and Technology (CSST), has focused on offering additional training for budding space scientists. Graduate students with NASA fellowships are co-advised by UMBC faculty and NASA scientists, undergraduates have internship opportunities on-site at Goddard, and post-baccalaureate programs offer recent grads a chance to get more experience before applying to jobs or graduate school. Career workshops are available to all.  

“We’re trying to do more to support their growth, and also prepare them to move on to other things afterwards,” says Don Engel, director of CSST and assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering. “We’re building more infrastructure around career support for our scientists, especially those at earlier levels.”

Don Engel, director of the Center for Space Sciences and Technology, UMBC’s arm of the CRESST II partnership, in the Imaging Research Center at UMBC. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

Engel has also been leading an effort to engage more departments at UMBC in the partnership. Physics is the most involved so far, but researchers in computer science and electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, information systems, and even geography and environmental systems have connected with CSST, meaning the Center spans all three UMBC colleges.

Read the full article on UMBC News.