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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa welcomed NASA’s top administrator Jim Bridenstine Friday for a tour of a lab in the Physics and Astronomy Department.

The University of Iowa recently received a $115 million grant to study interactions of magnetic fields with the sun and the earth.

Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Dave Loebsack were also on the tour with Bridenstine.

“I’m proud to be here at a time when the University of Iowa scholarship and research and inventions in this area of space is being recognized by the federal government with the largest grant that the University of Iowa has ever received,” said Grassley.

Loebsack got to know Bridenstine during his time as a U.S. congressman.

“Today hearing what he had to say, it’s clear to me that he understands not only the importance of this project but the importance of NASA and the importance of space for humanity, not just the University of Iowa, but the country,” said Loebsack. “I’m very impressed with the work he’s done.”

The school is studying how to best measure magnetic fields in the extreme conditions of space where the temperature can be at 300 degrees and almost that many degrees below zero.

“We look at a bunch of different physics. We try to understand things like where does the aurora, the northern lights come from,” said David Miles, assistant professor of physics and astronomy. “Where does the energy that creates the northern lights come from, and how does it impact things like space weather?”

Bridenstine said NASA really likes working with colleges on research projects.

“In a university setting where the researchers and engineers are side by side, and we have a cost cap and a scheduled date that we have to get this thing launched, what happens is something magical,” said Bridenstine. “The thing that’s magical is we actually stay on cost and on budget.”

Bridenstine outlined NASA’s plan to return to the moon to live and work and then go to Mars.

“We have proposed a budget request to the United States Congress, and of course right now they’re working through that,” said Bridenstine. “When the August recess is over, I think you’re going to see the Senate start moving some appropriation bills.”