Honolulu, Hawaii– NASA and the State of Hawaii will partner to promote America’s human and robotic exploration of space, contributing to education programs and bolstering the high tech job market.

Governor Neil Abercrombie and NASA Associate Deputy Administrator Rebecca Keiser signed a two-year agreement, formally called a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement Annex, during a ceremony today in the Governor’s Office. The agreement establishes a partnership between NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and the Aloha State to “explore and test new technologies, capabilities and strategies supporting America’s space exploration and development goals” according to a media release.

The Big Island of Hawaii hopes to see the development of a prototype International Lunar Research Park at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. A media release said the facility would use the state’s unique terrain, which is similar to that of the moon and Mars, to enable development and testing of advanced automated and tele-robotic vehicles. Researchers would benefit from Hawaii’s natural geography, advanced communications, power generation and other technologies required for space exploration, according to the release.

NASA and other international space agencies have been utilizing the lunar-like surface on the higher elevations of Mauna Kea to conduct tests related to space exploration for the past few years, with the help of PISCES, or the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems at UH-Hilo.

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Nov. 13, 2008 – NASA wrapped two weeks of tests on the volcanic soil of the Big Island of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, and invited the media to take a look at the technological concepts that will assist future space missions. The goal was to test systems that will one day assist astronauts in maintaining a sustainable and affordable lunar outpost, by drilling into alien soil and extracting water that could be used to create oxygen.

“Hawai’i has been part of America’s space activities from the beginning of the space program when Apollo astronauts trained in the islands for their historic missions to the moon,” Governor Abercrombie said. “This partnership with NASA will broaden educational and employment opportunities for our local families and bring dollars into our economy.”

“This is the type of participatory exploration involving universities and small- to mid-sized high technology companies that is becoming an increasingly important component of the 21st century space program,” Keiser said. “Americans want to participate directly and personally in space activities. As we have seen from NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project and the Centennial Challenges prize competitions, harvesting the country’s innovative talent is important to the success of our future endeavors in space. The space frontier is opening in novel and exciting ways.”

The media release detailed the agreement:

The state will provide the prototype test environment and infrastructure for the proposed analog test facilities. NASA will evaluate new concepts and models for conducting space exploration. The state will explore the potential to develop and mature innovative space-related technologies for educational, industry and government use.

“From NASA’s perspective, this partnership can inspire ideas and applications from analog test sites that can be generalized to space exploration and development of the moon and other planetary bodies,” said Ames Director Pete Worden.

The state’s Office of Aerospace Development will be the lead state agency for the project, enhancing dialogue and coordination among the state, private and academic partners to enable growth and diversification of the state’s aerospace economy.

“We support NASA’s goal to promote public-private partnerships and multinational alliances to help reduce the cost, enhance the feasibility and accelerate the implementation of future space missions – leading to settlements beyond low-Earth orbit,” said Jim Crisafulli, director of Hawai’i’s Office of Aerospace Development. “Locally, this collaboration should catalyze Hawai’i-based economic innovation and engage engineers, scientists, educators, and students, as well as commercial entrepreneurs, to increase the opportunities and benefits of space exploration.”

Today’s ceremony was held on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s historic announcement committing the country to land an American on the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade.

For more information about the International Lunar Research Park, visit: https://sites.google.com/site/internationallunarresearchpark

For more information about Ames, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ames

For more information about Hawaii’s aerospace initiatives, visit: http://aerospacehawaii.info