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Published: 9/11/2007

NASA upgrade plans to include a runway at Sandusky's Plum Brook Station

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CLEVELAND - The NASA Glenn Research Center has looked to the future and sees fewer, more environmentally sensitive buildings, leasing of unused land for other aerospace concerns and maybe even a space-oriented theme park.

"We looked at the horizon and see a very promising future with exciting work here at NASA Glenn and we want to prepare our facilities for the future challenges," center chief architect Joe Morris said Monday as space agency officials detailed a series of upcoming upgrades.

NASA's share of the various projects will be at least $150 million. Other projects could be financed by contractors and separately by NASA as part of its various space mission projects, but no estimates for those were released.

The goal of the 20-year master plan is to make NASA Glenn, which is helping to design a new space vehicle, ready for the space challenges of the future, officials said.

The plans reflect the increased budget stability and improved job security at NASA Glenn after several years of staff cuts and budget uncertainty, said Bill Wessel, associate director of the center.

"We truly have carved out our place within the NASA family," Wessel said. "We have a great future with regard to not only the work we have on our plate but looking into the future."

The projects include improved security at NASA Glenn locations in Cleveland and near Sandusky, demolishing aging buildings and consolidating work in environmentally friendly new buildings in a campus-type setting at the Cleveland location and leasing unused property to spur regional economic development.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, which has been active in promoting development projects away from the waterfront, has agreed to work with NASA to market the leasing of unused land at the Cleveland site about 5 miles south of Lake Erie. The land won't be sold, allowing NASA better control of safety issues and preserving its options for future needs.

Long-range goals, still without funding, include a proposed runway at NASA Glenn's Plum Brook Station near Sandusky. The runway could serve general aviation flights in the region and be used to ship huge space craft equipment to and from Plum Brook testing laboratories, the agency said.

The unfunded ideas also include a possible space theme park at Plum Brook to serve as a NASA outreach dovetailing with the region's tourist attractions, including Lake Erie resort islands and Cedar Point amusement park.

The project schedules will be flexible to reflect future budget decisions, with cycles of demolition and construction, Wessel said. "Every year you will see a little different (activity)," he said.

NASA Glenn has about 150 buildings and more than 500 special research and test facilities. The center does propulsion research and leads work on the module that will power the crew exploration vehicle scheduled to replace the space shuttle.

The center has more than 2,500 employees and contract workers at its 350-acre location next to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and the 6,400-acre Plum Brook Station. Pay for center employees averages $83,000 a year.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said the master plan "ensures that Glenn will remain at the forefront of NASA's long-term plans. NASA Glenn is central to northeast Ohio's economy and now it will continue to remain strong and healthy."

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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