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Visionary Tech Concepts Could Pioneer the Future in Space

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Visionary Tech Concepts Could Pioneer the Future in Space

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From: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Dozens of ideas are being introduced at this 12 months’s NASA Modern Superior Concepts Symposium, together with eight led by technologists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA missions make it seem to be the future is now – rovers exploring Mars with cutting-edge devices, a spacecraft venturing house with an asteroid pattern, and a fancy house telescope peering at the early universe. So, what’s the subsequent large factor? What may house missions in 2050 and past got down to uncover? 

One small NASA program goals to see what might be attainable. The NASA Modern Superior Concepts (NIAC) program, a part of the company’s Space Expertise Mission Directorate, funds early-stage analysis into sci-fi sounding, futuristic know-how ideas. The purpose is to seek out what may work, what won’t, and what thrilling new concepts researchers might give you alongside the way. 

Throughout NIAC’s annual Symposium Sept. 21-23, 2021, researchers will current concepts that might at some point be game-changers in house. Watch the event to study extra about these 4 know-how ideas and extra. 

1. Swimming micro-robots for ocean worlds.

Ocean worlds, the place liquid oceans lie beneath miles of icy crust, are a few of the most probably areas in our photo voltaic system to harbor life – an attractive prospect for scientists. Accessing and exploring these aquatic environments current distinctive challenges. Ethan Schaler, a robotics mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, is researching one promising thought for exploration: Utilizing 3D-printed, centimeter-scale robots outfitted with sensors and actuators. A mothercraft that drilled by way of the ice and deployed the micro-bots would additionally wirelessly management them utilizing ultrasound waves. 

2. Lengthy-reach crawling and anchoring robots for Martian caves. 

Whereas swimming robots might be splendid for some locations, others would require one thing with a firmer grip. Marco Pavone, an affiliate professor at Stanford College, is creating a possible resolution. His ReachBot idea may rapidly crawl by way of caves, utilizing extendable booms to understand over lengthy distances. Its varied options would permit small and light-weight robots to maneuver round in tough environments, resembling vertical cliff partitions or the rocky and uneven flooring of caves on Mars.

3. Light-weight deployable constructions that increase in house.

Getting extra-large spacecraft off Earth takes a number of planning, as the dimension of what can go to house relies on how a lot a rocket can match. A number of launches and in-space meeting have confirmed profitable in the previous, however there might be one other approach. Assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon College Zachary Manchester is contemplating methods to combine current advances in mechanical metamaterials into a light-weight deployable construction design. Such a construction might be launched inside a single rocket fairing after which deploy autonomously to a remaining dimension of the size of 10 soccer fields. 

4. Seeding asteroids with fungi to create house soil.

Space habitat ideas come in all styles and sizes. However all designs have a typical problem requiring revolutionary considering: How will house vacationers maintain themselves throughout lengthy journeys? Jane Shevtsov, working with Trans Astronautica Company, gives creating soil from carbon-rich asteroid materials. The fungi would bodily break down the materials and chemically degrade poisonous substances. Comparable processes happen on Earth, like oyster mushrooms cleansing up petroleum-contaminated soil. The NIAC analysis goals to discover a approach for future house habitats to have ample inexperienced house and sturdy agricultural methods. 

The 2021 NIAC symposium will kick off Tuesday, Sept. 21. A keynote handle by the Mars 2020 Planetary Safety Lead Moogega Cooper will air on NASA Tv, the company’s website, and the NASA app. 

NASA selects NIAC proposals by way of a peer-review course of that evaluates innovation and technical viability. All tasks are nonetheless in the early levels of growth, with most requiring a decade or extra of know-how maturation. They don’t seem to be thought-about official NASA missions. 

To study extra about NIAC, go to: 

www.nasa.gov/niac

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