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NASA institute to study moon science

The space agency said it plans to form lunar research teams around the country.

NASA said Tuesday that it plans to establish a new lunar science institute, in the hopes of laying the groundwork for future missions to the moon.

Called the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), the institute will open March 1, 2008, at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, but it will draw on work from teams across the country. (Ames similarly runs the distributed Astrobiology Institute.) The goal is to build an interdisciplinary study of the moon, building on other scientific research products funded by NASA.

NASA plans to form four or five teams to research areas including lunar science and astronomical and solar studies that could be conducted from the moon. It will allot grants of between $1 million to $2 million to each group over three years, with the opportunity for renewal up to five years. The funds originate from President Bush's 2008 budget proposal for planetary research programs, which is under consideration in Congress. NASA hopes to have 50 researchers around the country working on the various projects by late 2008.

"As the National Academy of Sciences has told us, the science to be done at the moon and from the moon are of high value, and NLSI will help us coordinate and expand a number of in-depth research efforts in lunar science and other fields that can benefit from human and robotic missions that are part of NASA's exploration plans," said Alan Stern, a spokesman from NASA's Science Mission Directorate.