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NASA Ames taps startups for out-of-this-world tech

Startups are working with NASA scientists at Ames Research Center to develop some of the coolest tech in Silicon Valley. In this series, we'll take you inside Ames to show you what they're up to. Our first episode kicks off with center director Eugene Tu and a glimpse of what's to come.

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Welcome to the Ames Research Center, NASA’s portal to Silicon Valley.
Within these gates, NASA is fostering innovation and entrepreneurship by partnering with startups and universities, and giving them access to its scientists, labs and simulators. Join me as we go inside Ames.

Over 70 organizations lease space at NASA Research Park at Ames and further research and development that NASA is interested in.

Eugene Tu, Director of Ames Research Center, told me this arrangement is great for the tenants and NASA.

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Eugene Tu
Director, NASA Ames Research Center
Only having government funded research, there’s limited resources available there, but now you have the private sector interested in advancing the same type of technology for other uses, so for NASA to leverage on that, it becomes very effective and mutually beneficial.

These collaborative partnerships started in 2003 Ames – along with the Kennedy Space Center- were the first two NASA centers to reach these agreements with the private sector. Now, it’s expanded throughout the agency.

In this series, we’ll look at some of the universities and startups at Ames. They all have something in common: the work they are doing has the potential to advance the technology that NASA will need in the future.

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Really what we look for is what is it they want to do and how does that relate to what NASA’s interests are// and would a presence here really help advance what they want to do, but eventually what we could benefit as well.

Being at NASA Ames means it’s easier to collaborate with scientists and researchers and use the labs, stimulators and some much bigger facilities

This history of Ames goes back over 75 years.

The Ames Aeronautical Library was founded in 1939 as the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. It was named for the chair of the NACA, Joseph Ames. The lab was renamed the NASA Ames Research Center when NASA was created in 1958.

Some of Ames’ biggest contributions to the U.S. space program include the swept-back wing concept used on all high-speed aircraft today and the blunt body concept that is used on spacecraft to prevent it from burning when it comes back to Earth.

Today, NASA Ames’ core areas of expertise reflect its proximity to Silicon Valley.

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Eugene Tu
We host the agency’s primary supercomputer...our work in autonomy.. artificial intelligence for our rovers.. that all leverages and gets benefit from partnerships we can establish by being here in Silicon Valley.

If that’s exciting for you, wait till you see some of the far-out ideas the startups and universities here at Ames are exploring., Asteroid mining, magnetic levitation transport, drone communication and even more efficient workouts. It’s all happening here at Ames.