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Florida Tech has been celebrating its 60th anniversary over the last year, and those six decades have witnessed several important “firsts.”

First class held. First parcel of land acquired for our Melbourne campus. First graduates. First million-dollar building.

We recently had another first, and in a sense it reflects – and was made possible by – many of those previous ones.

On May 23, we welcomed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on campus. He was here to offer the keynote address at Space Technology Day, which brought together professors, students, engineers, technologists and business leaders from around Florida to engage with NASA personnel on current and future space technology activities and the agency’s plans for exploring the Moon, Mars and beyond.

This ‘first’ may be somewhat surprising, given how Florida Tech and NASA launched the same year, 1958, with key operations in the same area, and have both been intertwined with space, exploration, scholarship and innovation since their founding. But yes, this was the first time NASA’s top leader came to our campus.

He had plenty to say about his host, describing us as a “wonderful institution” and noting our key role in generating talented graduates who end up working for NASA and related industry.

“Florida Tech is an amazing university that provides a lot of talent to NASA and to contractors serving NASA,” Bridenstine said.

He also talked about his goal to have a woman be among the new generation of moonwalkers in 2024, an outstanding plan that truly resonates here at Florida Tech, where women in STEM is a key focus guided by our First Lady, Dr. Mary Helen McCay.

We are also excited about the technologies that will be at the center of future exploration, because several areas discussed at Space Technology Day are the subject of research here at Florida Tech. Those include in-space manufacturing and on-orbit assembly, autonomous operations and in-situ resource utilization.

All of this served as a reminder of how essential Florida Tech is to our national space goals and aspirations – from the earliest days to the brightest tomorrows.

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