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Paragon Space Development Corporation was recently contracted by NASA to develop a water purification system to be used on the moon. 

With a major research university right in our backyard, a strong military presence and innovative companies throughout the metro region, there’s often a plethora of interesting science and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments.

Paragon Space Development earns NASA contract. Tucson’s Paragon Space Development Corporation, partnered with Giner Inc., announced they are under contract for the development and testing of the “ISRU-derived water purification and Hydrogen Oxygen Production (IHOP) a patent-pending subsystem” as part of NASA’s NextSTEP Program. The system aims to enable an enduring human presence on the moon by purifying naturally occurring deposits of ice, providing water and oxygen needed for a continuous human presence on foreign planets. This system is expected to increase the safety and affordability of future human spaceflight missions by limiting the need to launch supplies (such as water) from Earth, and allows for longer stays on the lunar surface. 

UA alumnus leaves $8.8M to College of Medicine. The estate of Dr. Ronald K. Baker, a 1975 alumnus of the College of Medicine, gifted the University of Arizona $8.8 million to establish scholarships and an endowed chair position. $5.9 million will establish the Ronald K. Baker, M.D. Scholarship Endowment to support medical students at the college in financial need. The remaining $2.9 million will establish the Ronald K. Baker Endowed Chair in Anesthesiology, planned to be held by Dr. Randal O. Dull, current chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. Dr. Baker, who died in 2017, earned two degrees at the UA: a doctorate in chemistry and a medical degree. His gift is the largest endowed scholarship gift ever received by the college.

Veterans in STEM. A chemist at the University of Arizona is developing the “Arizona Science, Engineering and Math Scholars – Veterans” program to support veterans pursuing science degrees. Michael Marty, assistant professor of chemistry, recently received a National Science Foundation career grant to develop the ASEMS-V program. This is an expansion of the Arizona Science, Engineering and Math Scholars (ASEMS) program. ASEMS-V helps veterans pursuing science education by offering specialty tutoring, mentoring and professional development. ASEMS-V also plans to have veterans shadow researchers as they work in labs as early as their first semester in school. 

Engineering away dust. Startup company Clean Earth Tech recently licensed technology developed by the UA College of Engineering to fight air pollution caused by blowing dust. While workers in dry climates around the world commonly spray water on the group to keep dust levels down, this method requires frequent reapplication, especially in hot and dry climates like Arizona. However, a new “environmentally safe biocompatible polymer blend” developed by UA assistant professor of materials science and engineering Minkyu Kim can be added to water used to control dust. The polymer blend can keep the sprayed ground damp for more than two months, even in extreme conditions like the Arizona desert.