University of Iowa wins contract with NASA to study magnetic fields of the Earth and Sun

Craig Kletzing teaching at University of Iowa.
Craig Kletzing teaching at University of Iowa.(KCRG)
Published: Jun. 20, 2019 at 4:24 PM CDT
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The University of Iowa wins its largest contract in the school's history from NASA, totaling around $115 million. This contract will be used to help study the interactions between the Earth and Sun through magnetic fields.

A team led by physicist Craig Kletzing will be working in conjunction with NASA. The project is called Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS for short. The study's main goal is to show how the sun impacts space and the plants that surround it.

Kletzing said that “One of the long-term goals of our space research to evolve toward predictive ‘space weather’ models to improve our ability to utilize space as a resource. The science that TRACERS studies will be essential to achieve this goal.”

TRACERS is part of NASA's Explorers Program. This idea of magnetic fields is an important topic because without the Earth's magnetic field, we would have an unhealthy level of radiation which would impact all life on Earth.

John Keller, the interim vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College said: "This is a monumental accomplishment for the University of Iowa, and in particular for Craig Kletzing’s ambitious and experienced team and the Department of Physics and Astronomy."

Keller went on to say that "Not only is it the single-largest contract award in the history of this institution, but the work will pay enormous dividends in terms of new understanding about the sun’s impact on space and planets. As with (UI physicist) James Van Allen’s discovery of the radiation belts, this project again demonstrates to the world why the University of Iowa is a global leader in space science and discovery."

Other members of the team include Jasper Halekas, George Hospodarsky, Scott Bounds, Jeff Dolan, Dan Crawford, Rick Dvorsky, Carol Preston, and Loren LeClair.