AMES, Iowa -- The NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center (FTCSC) at Iowa State University closed on Dec. 30 with several successes in its six years of work.

"We have experienced a great number of accomplishments in this center," Anthony Pometto, center director and Iowa State food science professor, said. "Our faculty, partners and collaborating centers have really made the FTCSC successful and developed amazing new technologies for space. We at FTCSC are saddened by this news, but we have been working to make the transition a positive one for everyone involved in the Center."

The closing resulted from NASA's budget restructuring to fund a new exploration initiative and the formation of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

"We recognize the contributions made by FTCSC, the commercial partners and affiliate faculty, and would encourage them to use other NASA research opportunities to continue their valuable research and remain engaged in the NASA exploration vision," said Carl Walz, NASA's associate director of Life Support and Habitation.

The NASA FTCSC at Iowa State was founded in 1999 through a five-year grant of $2.8 million. NASA extended the grant funding in 2004 for an additional year. The center was developed to lead a national effort in developing foods and food-processing technologies that enhance space missions and advance commercial food products.

Four companies, Maytag Corp., Hy-Vee Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. were instrumental in securing the grant through their $250,000 contributions of in-kind research over five years.

The center, directed by Dennis Olson until 2000 and most recently by Pometto, was recognized for a variety of achievements including building numerous partnerships with academia, industry and the public.

The FTCSC worked with 30 commercial partners, which were recognized for their contributions to space food and space food technology. Two companies recently developed foods for space.

Triple "F" Inc., an Iowa-based company, developed a soy-based dehydrated chili that was accepted by NASA and added to the Johnson Space Center flight list. Another commercial partner, Arla Foods amba of Denmark, worked with the Center to produce a powdered milk drink and thermostabilized yogurt, which have been approved by NASA.

At its closing, there were 57 affiliated faculty members who represented 16 American universities, one federal research laboratory and two international institutes. Faculty members, such as Lester Wilson of Iowa State, were recognized for their work with the Center. Wilson was named a NASA Faculty Fellow three consecutive years. Through this fellowship, he spent three summers at the Johnson Space Center working with NASA scientists.

Six collaborating centers also worked with FTCSC. Four of those centers, the Center for Designing Foods to Improve Nutrition, the Center for Crops Utilization Research, the Food Safety Consortium and the Center for Advanced Technology Development, are located at Iowa State. The remaining two centers, the Israeli Aerospace Medicine Institute and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, are international institutes.

During its tenure, the center worked with educators and students to provide information about space food and space-related topics. Through FTCSC's website, educators can download lesson plans and other supporting materials for classroom discussions about space topics.

Cheryll Reitmeier, education mission specialist for FTCSC and Iowa State food science professor, spent much of her time speaking to a variety of groups about foods for space travel and other space-related topics. She won a Higher Education Challenge Grant that she used to design and implement effective college-level educational programs about food systems for space travel.

SOURCE: News release from Iowa State University
College of Agriculture Communications Service.