Sandia LabNews

MESA groundbreaking is "momentous day" for Labs

MESA groundbreaking is "momentous day for labs"

Tuesday morning (Aug. 19), National Nuclear Security Administration head Linton Brooks joined with Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., and senior management from Sandia for an official groundbreaking that celebrated the beginning stages of construction of Sandia’s $462.5 million MESA complex.

Sandia participants in the ceremony, which took place in a large tent erected near the construction site at the southeast corner of Area 1, included Sandia President C. Paul Robinson, Senior VP for Defense Programs Tom Hunter, VP for National Security and Arms Control Al Romig, and Director of the MESA Program Don Cook.

The pleasant event, which went off smoothly and was videostreamed on Sandia’s internal Web, seemed the Labs’ ceremonial version of thanking the gods for seed corn and future success — given, of course, sufficient hard work.

Paul Robinson looked over an audience of approximately 200 people and said, "This is a momentous day in the history of our laboratory. . . . MESA is a linchpin of our people and of technologies coming together in the national interest."

"This is a day to celebrate the tangible reality of a vision," said Tom Hunter, who spoke of MESA’s promise of making components "smaller, smarter, more functional."

Ambassador and NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks, who flew in from Washington for the occasion, conveyed "very high regards" from DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham, who had been scheduled to attend but was kept in Washington by the aftermath of last week’s Northeast blackout.

"MESA is more than a technological achievement," Brooks said. "It will help us attract the next generation of scientists and engineers to continue our national security work in an effective, safe environment. I am proud to be associated with this Laboratory."

Wilson praised Sandians. She told the audience, "You have a sense of humility that is probably not deserved. There is nothing like [these laboratories] anywhere in the country, and arguably in the world."

Bingaman spoke glowingly of the MESA Institute, an offshoot MESA program that brought more than 40 students this year to work at Sandia and encourages trips here by their professors. "The MESA Institute will bring students, faculty, and other researchers from around the country to New Mexico and Sandia. I applaud that outreach effort very much." The MESA Institute is headed by Regan Stinnett (1903).

Said Domenici, who chaired the Senate committee that first committed funds to MESA, "The MESA project is a critical facility to the future of Sandia, bringing together businesses and scientists from all over the world. It can be a tremendous economic engine for New Mexico and the world." He listed three goals and hopes he has for the project: scientific work that would improve nuclear weapons systems, a rebirth of basic science for America, and that New Mexico share in that rebirth.

Al Romig hosted a video display of Sandia microtechnology.

MESA (for "Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications") is the largest project that Sandia has ever undertaken. An "under-ground-breaking" ceremony held last year celebrated the installation of utility lines. Thus far, $200 million has been appropriated for engineering design, microelectronic tool upgrades, utilities construction, and work in progress. Two of three building construction contracts have been awarded for a total of $83 million, with approximately $58 million subcontracted to New Mexico businesses. Upon completion in 2008, three major facilities are expected to house 648 researchers (including some from industry and academia) in 391,000 square feet of space.

The three buildings that formally comprise the project — a microfabrication facility, a microlaboratory, and a weapons integration facility — are expected to include advanced visualization labs and ‘clean’ rooms that will help modernize safety, security, and reliability functions of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and contribute to other national security missions.

The adjacent construction of an advanced computing facility and a nanotechnology center to be built just north of Sandia’s Eubank gate means that an unusually capable and interrelated group of scientific facilities will be available for scientists from the Labs and industry, as well as for university faculty and students.

"A large planning team throughout Sandia worked to make this ceremony happen," said Cindy Olson (1900), senior management assistant to Don Cook.