U.S. Senator Tours Acclaimed BU Astrophysics Center

Oct. 6, 2000

The Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research (CASPER), one of the most prominent partnerships between Baylor University and Texas State Technical College, caught the attention of a United States Senator on Sunday, Oct. 1, at the Space Science Lab facilities on the TSTC campus.

U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm toured the facilities and noted that the research being conducted by CASPER is crucial to the future of life in a highly technological era.

"In the same way that railroads and telegraph lines became vital in the last century, technology in orbit has become the infrastructure of the new economy," Gramm said. "Satellite-borne communications help drive economic expansion in the information age, so it's imperative to find out how to protect them and get the most benefit possible from them."

Through the CASPER partnership, Baylor and TSTC students and faculty are conducting research on a hypervelocity impact resistance system. By studying the effects of microscopic space particles that collide with orbiting satellites at high rates of speed, their research could then lead to the creation of protective shields for such satellites, keeping them operational for longer periods of time.

Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. welcomed Gramm and the crowd of more than 50 people, and said he was pleased with CASPER's accomplishments and looks forward to what the acclaimed center will be able to do in the future.

"It's a pleasure to be here today to celebrate a significant partnership between two of Waco's institutions of higher learning, Baylor and TSTC," Dr. Sloan said. "This center's research has the potential to greatly influence how we communicate world-wide. And we are pleased that CASPER - behind the leadership of Baylor physics professor Truell Hyde - is the driving force behind such an innovative area of study and research."

Dr. Hyde, CASPER director and associate professor of physics and director of graduate studies at Baylor, said he was glad to see such enthusiasm for CASPER.

"Experimental research is always expensive," he said. "One of the best things an effort of this type can do is to make certain that our government officials know what it is we do and why it is important. This enables us, at the national level, to pursue the type of funding necessary for survival."

Dr. Hyde also said he is happy with the work going on between Baylor and TSTC.

"Baylor and TSTC together have access to funding and equipment sources that neither would have alone. The partnership provides the opportunity to develop a research setting (particularly in terms of equipment) that will be unparalleled as an integrated research-education environment."

Others in attendance during the tour were Dr. Donald D. Schmeltekopf, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Baylor; Dr. Wallace Daniel, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Ben Pierce, professor of biology and associate dean for sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at Baylor, and Dr. Martha Ellis, TSTC President.

CASPER consists of a theory group and two experimental labs which specialize in various areas of research: the Astrophysics and Space Science Theory Group (ASSTG), the Hypervelocity Impacts and Dusty Plasmas Lab (HIDPL) and the Space Science Lab (SSL). Both CASPER hypervelocity and space science labs are located in separate buildings on the TSTC campus, with the hypervelocity lab having recently undergone major renovations to meet specific power and cooling requirements. Theory group participants work out of the physics department on the Baylor campus, while experimental group members work at TSTC with technical support provided by TSTC faculty and students.

For more information about CASPER, contact Hyde at (254) 710-6717 or Carliss Hyde, director of external resource development at TSTC, at (254) 867-4843. Further information about CASPER is available at http://www.baylor.edu/~CASPER/ .

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