Texas A&M officials are planning a new $200 million space institute that will work in conjunction with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Once built, it will be the first of its kind in the U.S.

The gist

The project, much of which is being funded through the state of Texas, is in the design process at the moment, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp said at a Nov. 28 event hosted by the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.

Along with support mission training, robotics and aeronautics work, the new facility will replicate both the Mars and lunar surfaces, which will allow for better training and technology opportunities, Sharp said.

The announcement comes as NASA is working toward more trips to outer space, including to the moon.

Texas A&M regents approved the project back in August, according to the college’s website.

What else?

In addition to the new facility, Sharp talked about several things Texas A&M is doing and bringing to the area.

Students at the college are creating advanced medical technology, including one student who built a heart and lung machine—which normally costs millions—for $32,000, Sharp said. Local engineering academies are also giving students who either can’t afford university or cannot leave home a chance to earn college credits toward an engineering degree through community colleges in the area.

On that note, college officials are working toward bringing a $51 million engineering building to the Galveston campus.

In the realm of space, the college has more than 300 ongoing space projects, which total up to $50 million worth of research, Sharp said.