owls in space

Rice University boosts NASA's research and new lunar mission with renewed partnership

Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Rice University president Reginald DesRoches expanded upon their partnership. Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Nearly 60 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a bold declaration to the crowd of 40,000 gathered at Rice University’s football stadium — and to the world. America, said the young president, would land a man on the moon before the decade’s end.

“Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy said in the now-iconic speech on September 12, 1962. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Indeed, heading back to the moon is hard, but the Ivy League of the South has just formalized a deal to assist NASA in doing so in the agency’s new lunar Artemis program. Rice University and NASA have extended their historic collaboration and partnership in which the two entities share research and develop educational outreach programs and opportunities.

Specifically, the new umbrella Space Act Agreement (SAA) covers participation by Rice and NASA personnel in joint research opportunities, STEM engagement, and educational activities, according to a Rice press announcement. This deal follows a decade of collaboration (starting with the 2012 SAA) and a previous extension in 2017.

And in a nod to the late president, the agreement also makes official NASA’s co-host participation in the upcoming Rice campus celebration that celebrates Kennedy’s legendary “We choose to go to the moon” speech. Rice will host public events from September 10-12.

This partnership invites the university to host and attend presentations at Johnson Space Center, including its Gateway to Space lecture series, and to NASA personnel to present at and attend the Rice Space Institute’s Space Frontiers lecture series, the Professional Science Masters in Space Studies seminar series, and other events, per a release.

The university will also seek ways to involve NASA researchers as visiting scholars, share information that could lead to collaborations, encourage Rice students to seek NASA internships, and pursue opportunities to engage in bioscience and human health and performance research.

Vanessa Wyche presents a special plaque to Rice University. Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Rice has collaborated with NASA since the agency’s inception, including donating land for what’s now Johnson Space Center, as well as founding the first space science department in an academic institution. Rice alums in space include Shannon Walker, who holds three Rice degrees; Peggy Whitson, who holds the American record for the most time in space; and Nichole Ayers, who joined the space corps last year, Rice notes.

In July 2019, veterans of the Apollo program reunited at Rice Stadium to toast the anniversary of the first moon landing (Apollo 11) and take part in a NASA video to mark the 50-year milestone.

“NASA’s Johnson Space Center has a long history of working with colleges and universities since the early days of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs to help us achieve our human spaceflight missions,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of Johnson Space Center, in a statement. “We are eager to extend our partnership with Rice University to collaborate in vital research and technology development initiatives that will enable us to meet our nation’s exploration goals and advance human spaceflight as we work to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon under Artemis.”

Earlier this year, NASA also tapped University of Houston and Texas A&M University to expand partnerships at those institutions.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Calling all Houston innovators — now's your time to shine. Graphic by Naomi Galvez

Update: The deadline for nominations have been extended to midnight on Sunday, October 2.

InnovationMap is back to honor local startups and innovators — and this time, we've upped the ante.

Houston Exponential and InnovationMap have teamed up to combine their annual awards and event efforts to premiere a brand new program. The Houston Innovation Awards Gala on Wednesday, November 9, at The Ion will be a comprehensive event honoring Houston founders, innovators, investors, and more. InnovationMap and HX, which was acquired earlier this year, are in the same network of ownership.

Nominations are open online until midnight October 2, and nominees will have until October 11 to complete an additional application that will be emailed to nominees directly. A group of industry experts and Houston innovation leaders will review those submissions and determine finalists and winners across 11 categories. The categories for this year's awards are:

  • BIPOC-Owned Business honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by BIPOC representation
  • Female-Owned Business honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by a woman
  • Hardtech Business honoring an innovative company developing and commercializing a physical technology across life science, energy, space, and beyond
  • B2B Software Business honoring an innovative company developing and programming a digital solution to impact the business sector
  • Green Impact Business honoring an innovative company providing a solution within renewables, climatetech, clean energy, alternative materials, and beyond
  • Smart City Business honoring an innovative company providing a tech solution within transportation, infrastructure, data, and beyond
  • New to Hou honoring an innovative company, accelerator, or investor that has relocated its primary operations to Houston within the past three years
  • DEI Champion honoring an individual who is leading impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and progress within Houston and their organization
  • Investor of the Year honoring an individual who is leading venture capital or angel investing
  • Mentor of the Year honoring an individual who dedicates their time and expertise to guide and support to budding entrepreneurs
  • People's Choice: Startup of the Year selected via an interactive voting portal during of the event
Nominees can be submitted to multiple categories.

Additionally, the awards gala will honor an innovator who's made a lasting impact on the Houston innovation community. While you may nominate an individual for the Trailblazer Award via the online form, the judging committee will not require applications or nominations for this category and will be considering potential honorees from the ecosystem at large. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please reach out to cbuckner@houstonexponential.org.

Last year, InnovationMap introduced its awards program and named 28 finalists and honored the nine winners on September 8. Click here to see more from last year's event.

Tickets for the November 9 event are available online. Early bird tickets will be $60 per person and startup founders will be able to attend for $25.

Click here to submit a nomination or see form below.


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