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WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 8, 2003 -- U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today reported that the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology at Socorro has landed a $422,235 grant through the U.S. Department of Education (DoEd) to expand as a program to make astronomy more exciting to youth.

New Mexico Tech'’ Etscorn Campus Observatory (ECO) is used for education and public outreach. The grant funding, secured by Domenici in the FY2003 appropriations process last year, will be used to expand the observatory to include a laboratory building and a new radio interferometric telescope.

“New Mexico Tech has a distinguished record of accomplishment, including the operation of astronomy facilities. It is committed to increasing the number of minority students studying science, math and engineering in New Mexico schools, which have a minority population over 50 percent,” Domenici said.

The federal Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE) grant will equip the two telescopes for remote operation over the Internet, for the addition of a one-meter class telescope, and for the training of teachers so that these astronomy assets can be used in classrooms throughout New Mexico.

Today, Domenici also reported approval of $15 million to complete the construction of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) in Socorro County. This Office of Naval Research, Naval Research Laboratory project will consist of a single stand-alone telescope and a multi-telescope interferometer. The complex will be used by Defense Department agencies studying missile flights from the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). The project is supported by a research consortium composed of New Mexico Tech, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Highlands University, and the University of Puerto Rico.

The MRO funding included in the FY2004 Defense Appropriations Bill, which was approved by the Senate Defense Appropriation Subcommittee today. Domenici serves on this subcommittee.