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New building offers a home for space tracking partnership with U.S. Air Force

What sets the plot of the 2013 hit film “Gravity” in motion is space debris hurtling around in orbit, tearing apart a space shuttle and stranding George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. It’s a catastrophe that’s not as far fetched as one might think, at least the part about renegade space junk turning a shuttle or satellite into, well, more space junk.

Students aid professor researching lightning on the edge of space

Ask any of the 275 students in the Physics & Engineering Department at Fort Lewis College what a “sprite” is, and they’re probably not going to tell you it’s a soft drink or a green fairy from a mythical land. Their responses might be something more like this:

“A ghostly flash above the clouds.”

“Violent, beautiful bursts of energy.”

“Vertical, red-orangery lightning.”

“A rare occurrence.”