Central Florida Roundup
NASA selects two UCF scientists to lead robotic exploration mission to the moon
Probing a Lunar Mystery
NASA has selected two planetary scientists at the University of Central Florida — Kerri Donaldson Hanna and Adrienne Dove — to lead a 2026 robotic mission to explore a mysterious section of the moon known as the Gruithuisen Domes. While the rounded lunar mountains have never been visited up close, fly-over data from previous missions suggests they formed from volcanic eruptions of silicic lava. If that’s the case, the rock could provide important resources for future moon explorations. Another question scientists hope to answer is how the silica magmas formed on the moon in the first place; on Earth, their formation requires water and plate tectonics, which don’t exist on the moon.
The $35 million UCF-led mission — known as the Lunar Vulkan Imaging and Spectroscopy Explorer investigation — will send five instruments (two that will be mounted on a stationary lander and three attached to a mobile rover) out to explore the summit of one of the domes to learn more about their composition and properties and observe how the lunar dust reacts to the lander and the rover.
- The Melbourne City Council approved developer Mirpuri Group’s plans to build a Margaritaville-themed hotel and resort complex along the Indian River Lagoon in Melbourne. The roughly $75-million Margaritaville Landing and Riverwalk project will feature a 146-room hotel, multiple restaurants, a marina with 221 boat slips, an event lawn and stage, a parking garage and a public boardwalk.
- HCA Florida Poinciana Hospital is doubling the capacity of its intensive care unit to 12 beds and adding 18 more inpatient medical/ surgical beds. The $9.9-million addition — the fourth since the hospital opened in 2013 — will be finished by next spring. Meanwhile, HCA Florida Healthcare has renamed its 14 home health agencies HCA Florida Healthcare at Home.
- Christian Romandetti Sr., former CEO of Melbourne-based First Choice Healthcare Solutions, a publicly traded company focused on orthopedic care and treatment, pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He faces up to five years in prison. A federal indictment alleged that Romandetti and others engaged in a multi-million dollar “pump and dump” scheme between 2013 and 2016 that artificially generated price movements and trading volume and made material misrepresentations and omissions in communications to defraud investors, many of whom were elderly.
- Full Sail University has partnered with Echelon Fitness, a high-tech exercise equipment company headquartered in Tennessee, to create an on-campus fitness technology lab where students can work on research projects centered on the company’s equipment and technologies, which include connected rowing machines, smart bikes and treadmills. The global smart fitness market is expected to grow to more than $34 billion between 2022 and 2026.
- The University of Central Florida’s football stadium — formerly known as the Bounce House — has now been branded FBC Mortgage Stadium under a 10-year, $19.5-million deal that the Orlando-based mortgage lender struck with the UCF Athletics Association.
- Sherwin-Williams has expanded its Orlando manufacturing facility and plans to add lab techs as well as employees in manufacturing/operations and shipping and receiving with salaries exceeding 125% of the county’s average wage of $31,409.
- Spanish Broadcasting System acquired two FM radio stations serving Orlando and Tampa Bay from Cox Radio for $12.5 million, making SBS the largest Hispanic radio platform in Florida. SBS has transitioned both stations — 95.3 WPYP (FM) in Orlando and 97.1 WSUN (FM) in Tampa — to a tropical music format. The Orlando region is the country’s 14th top Hispanic market area, according to Nielsen.
- Richard Glover, former vice president of communications and marketing for Space Center Houston, is now CEO of the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens.
- Virginia-based Snell Properties purchased the 25-story CitiTower apartments, one block from Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, for $106 million, or $455,000 per unit.
- LaShawn Bates was appointed market director for North and Central Florida for JLL. The Robert Slack team in Orlando, with 6,422 transactions, ranked third nationally in The Thousand, a ranking of real estate teams and individuals put out by 2022 Real Trends.
- The Slack team ranked fourth in dollar volume with $2.24 billion in sales in 2021. It was the only Central Florida team to rank in the top five nationally.
- Walmart will begin delivering orders in Orlando by drone later this year. The DroneUp service will be available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. for orders less than 10 pounds from at least three stores in the city.
- The Central Florida region landed $15.9 million in federal funding that will go toward the region’s Sunshine Corridor program — which will extend SunRail commuter train service to Orlando International Airport and the Orange County Convention Center — and Brightline’s rail extension between Orlando International Airport and Tampa. Brightline is matching those funds for a total $31.8 million investment that will support preliminary engineering activities and environmental approvals for the Orlando-to-Tampa route.