University of Arizona space sciences compete with Super Bowl for largest economic impact

A new economic impact report finds that the University of Arizona’s astronomy and space sciences economic impact rivals the Super Bowl.
Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 9:56 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - A new economic impact report finds that the University of Arizona’s astronomy and space sciences economic impact rivals the Super Bowl.

The program generates nearly the same amount of money yearly as the big game.

“It’s nice when basic research not only helps answer fun, hard questions but also helps the people of Arizona. The reason we have such a high economic impact is that astronomy requires us to do things that haven’t been done before,” said Buell Jannuzi, director of Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona.

The program’s economic output is roughly $560 million. This does not include money generated through state, county, and municipal taxes, which is an estimated $21.1 million.

In comparison, the Super Bowl is expected to generate $600 million for the state, according to Visit Phoenix.

“The money we spend doing the scientific research isn’t spent in space, it’s spent right here on the ground and much of this in Tucson,” said Mark Marley, director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona.

In addition to the millions of dollars the program generates each year, researchers say there is also a huge return on investment. The report states it is at 5-to-1.

“For every $1 that the people of Arizona have given us, we’ve brought $5 more back to the state,” said Jannuzi.

But this type of substantial investment does not happen overnight. The continual funding is the result of successful research and projects over the past century. The university has become the only college across the country to organize a mission to Mars and interact multiple times with NASA.

“Some of these huge projects like building a camera for the James Webb, and for the Hubble Space Telescope, running two interplanetary missions, including the OSIRIS Rex and sample return,” said Timothy Swindle, director of the University of Arizona Space Institute. “We’re building the mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope, one of the biggest telescopes in the world when it comes online. We are in charge of taking the highest resolution images and the surface of Mars ever taken.”

While the continual funding benefits the program’s research and projects, it also has a significant community impact. The university directly employs more than 900 students, staff and scientists.

Nearly 3,300 jobs have also been created within the community to help the program’s space pursuits.

“Any single idea, even if it’s just for a small team of people, reaches out and actually involves a lot more people, bringing in money, and it pays the salaries of all of the people that make it possible. It really takes a village to explore the solar system,” said Marley.

University researchers add this report shows the university’s commitment to Tucson and the state.