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USRA has a storied heritage that traces back to the formation of the Lunar Science Institute by the National Academy of Sciences in 1968 at the height of the Apollo program.


The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) was created in the context of a national research and development (R&D) policy that dates from the end of World War II. The crux of the policy is that in the United States research universities are the backbone of the nation's R&D infrastructure. As noted by Charles Vest (1941-2013), the former President of MIT, the idea for the development of the policy was simple:

The federal government would pay for the conduct of research in universities, and these research grants and contracts would enable and directly support the education of graduate students. Thus each federal dollar accomplished two objectives - generating new knowledge and technology, and simultaneously supporting the education of the next generation of scientists, engineers, and doctors.

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