At the University of Arizona, our roots in space exploration run deep, and our reach extends even farther.
The spectacular night skies over southern Arizona have inspired humans for millennia, sparking our quest to understand the cosmos and journey to other worlds. Even today, our clear, dark skies yield jaw-dropping naked-eye views of the Milky Way and neighboring planets.
The University of Arizona has an unparalleled history of involvement in space science, anchored by Steward Observatory and the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL). With the successful deployment of NIRCam aboard the James Webb Space Telescope, UArizona now has built instruments for each of NASA’s three great observatories. And the OSIRIS-REx mission, due to return a sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth in September 2023, is the second deep space mission that UArizona has led. No other university has built more than one instrument for the great observatories or led more than one deep space mission, and UArizona has led the nation’s universities in spending on Astronomy and Astrophysics every year for more than three decades. The Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab builds some of the world’s largest telescope mirrors, including the mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope , of which UArizona is a partner. UArizona graduates in space science include one Nobel Laureate , several astronauts, and many other national and international leaders.
The University of Arizona Space Institute (UASI) serves as an umbrella-organization to facilitate the work of UArizona’s space-oriented researchers, providing seed grants for major missions and other space projects in development, coordinating technical staff, helping to build the necessary infrastructure, and operating the Applied Research Building.
Explore our accomplishments in space science and consider partnering with us on our journey of discovery and innovation, one that continues to make UArizona the place for space.
The Arizona Space Institute is a driving force in advancing UArizona's role as the world’s leading university for:
- space science
- human and robotic exploration
- astrobiology/exoplanets research
- space situational awareness research, and planetary defense.
Missions and Projects
UArizona is at the forefront of planetary exploration and of ground- and space-based observations ranging from Near-Earth asteroids to black holes to the edge of the observable Universe.. Explore these selected mission highlights, or view the full list of observatories and current research areas at Steward Observatory and missions and research focus areas at LPL. The Earth Dynamics Observatory combines the University’s strengths in space exploration, instrumentation, and earth sciences to learn more about our own planet.
Projects elsewhere within the university include the ASTEROIDS laboratory, the Aerospace Medicine and Surgery Fellowship, the Space Analog for the Moon and Mars facility at Biosphere 2, sensor development for the monitoring of astronaut health at the Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine Center and the Lunar Greenhouse prototype for bioregenerative life-support systems.
Phoenix Mars Lander
Launched in August 2007, the Phoenix Mars Mission was the first mission in NASA’s Scout Program. Phoenix was designed to study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian arctic’s ice-rich soil.
NIRCam is the 0.6 to 5 micron imager for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)—JWST will detect the first light-emitting galaxies and star clusters to form in the universe after the Big Bang. The NIRCam design is optimized for finding these "first light" sources.
OSIRIS-REx seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny? Asteroids, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the sun and planets.
Students with an interest in space-related fields have many options at UArizona. Graduate level programs are available in the Departments of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Astronomy, and Planetary Sciences, and these departments all have undergraduate majors and/or minors as well. We also have an Astrobiology minor program, for either undergraduates or graduates. Space-related projects can be pursued through many other departments. Check to see where your interests might fit in.
UArizona hosts three programs with space-related internships and fellowships for students. These are the Arizona Space Grant Consortium, TIMESTEP, and the ASTEROIDS Laboratory.
UArizona is also the first Academic Engagement Enterprise partner of the US Space Command.
Astronomers race to make sense of brightest gamma ray burst ever seen
UArizona astronomers have joined an international effort to study the aftermath of the brightest flash of gamma rays ever observed. Observations involving various UArizona telescopes and instruments provide astronomers with a "cosmic lab" to study how massive stars die.
UArizona students track asteroid set to whiz by Earth this weekend
As a sizable asteroid makes a close pass by Earth, a team of UArizona students is ready to observe the action to practice and test procedures that could be useful in mitigating an impending asteroid impact in the future.