NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine snaps a selfie with students during a visit to the University of Colorado Bouldeer. Lucas High/BizWest

NASA chief’s visit to CU highlights region’s status as aerospace powerhouse

BOULDER — Colorado companies and institutions of higher learning will play an increasingly critical role as NASA embarks on ambitious new missions in the coming years.

A Friday visit to the University of Colorado Boulder by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, the space agency’s top official, highlights the state’s emergence as an aerospace powerhouse.

“We have an intersection here of government, industry and academia,” Bridenstine said. “We’re all working together to achieve a common goal, and [that goal is] a sustainable return to the moon and eventual missions to Mars.”

Bridenstine was in Boulder Friday to tour CU’s new Aerospace Engineering Sciences Building.

NASA adminstrator Jim Bridenstine tries out a virtual reality system that allows users to practice elements of a space walk. BizWest/Lucas High

“It’s wonderful that the NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is here to see our facility, tour the campus and to talk aerospace today with our university leaders, industry executives and, most importantly, our up-and-coming students,” dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science Bobby Braun said. “They are the aerospace workforce of the future.”

The $101 million, 178,294-square-foot CU aerospace building has been under construction since 2017.

The building is home to nearly 1,400 students, state-of-the-art bioastronautics laboratories, manufacturing and fabrication facilities, a 200-seat auditorium and even an operations center that allows students to communicate with astronauts on the International Space Station.

“This new building in going to be game-changing for the university and really for the entire state of Colorado,” Bridenstine said.

As NASA moves forward with its missions to the moon and Mars, effective collaboration with Colorado universities and especially local industry partners will become increasingly important, he said.

“The industrial base of the United States is critically important, and that base in Colorado is especially strong,” Bridenstine said, citing CU spinoff companies as critical industry contributors.

“We need to take better advantage of commercial capabilities,” he said. A number of cost and time efficiencies can be realized by shifting certain aspects of aerospace and space travel innovation away from government and toward the private sector.

NASA is better served to be a customer of aerospace firms than the owner and operator of all space-related technology, Bridenstine said. “We can be the tenant instead of the landlord.”

When companies take over parts of the space program, it frees NASA up to focus on activities for which there is no current commercial market, such as putting an astronaut on Mars, he said.

BOULDER — Colorado companies and institutions of higher learning will play an increasingly critical role as NASA embarks on ambitious new missions in the coming years.

A Friday visit to the University of Colorado Boulder by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, the space agency’s top official, highlights the state’s emergence as an aerospace powerhouse.

“We have an intersection here of government, industry and academia,” Bridenstine said. “We’re all working together to achieve a common goal, and [that goal is] a sustainable return to the moon and eventual missions to Mars.”

Bridenstine was in Boulder Friday to tour CU’s new Aerospace Engineering Sciences Building.

NASA adminstrator Jim Bridenstine tries out a virtual reality system that allows users to practice elements of a space walk. BizWest/Lucas High

“It’s wonderful that the NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is here to see our facility, tour the campus and to talk aerospace today with our university leaders, industry executives and, most importantly, our up-and-coming students,” dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science Bobby Braun said. “They are the aerospace workforce of the future.”

The $101 million, 178,294-square-foot CU aerospace building has been under construction since 2017.

The building is home to nearly 1,400 students, state-of-the-art bioastronautics laboratories, manufacturing and fabrication facilities, a 200-seat auditorium and even an operations center that allows students to communicate with astronauts on the International Space Station.

“This new building in going to be game-changing for the university…