Profits from the British lottery are going to help pay for construction of a National Space Science Center (NSSC) in Leicester, United Kingdom. The lottery-funded Millennium Commission announced today that it would spend £23 million ($37.6 million) on the NSSC, which will feature a planetarium, exhibits, and access to actual scientists working on satellites and other instruments.
In 1994, officials of the University of Leicester and the city had put in a bid to develop a space center, noting that few of the many projects funded by lottery profits involve science. "We struck a chord," says Leicester x-ray astrophysicist Alan Wells, NSSC director. Leicester now must finish raising matching funds, although Wells says his group is "quite a long way" toward that goal.
The center, slated to open in mid-2000 at a site near the city center, will include new labs for Leicester University's space scientists who are now stuck in cramped quarters. They will relocate with instruments they use to calibrate and test projects such as the Jet-X x-ray telescope, built to fly on a Russian satellite in 1999. NSSC will also attract an estimated 250,000 visitors per year. Even space scientists who remain on campus are in for a big change: Leicester's 120-person department is expected to swell by about 20% in the next 5 years, Wells says, thanks in part to a higher profile from the NSSC.