NASA has selected, among various proposals, a series of innovative studies that will make future space missions easier and safer. These studies include tailored spacesuits for travel to Mars and new planetary defense technology against asteroid threats. Seventeen projects were selected in the latest round of funding for the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. In total, $ 5.1 million will be spent on these studies.
Twelve of the selected projects are currently in Phase I of development and each will receive $ 175,000; the remaining five projects are in Phase II, receiving $ 600,000 each. For NIAC projects, there are three progressive stages, according to NASA. Phase I studies are those in which researchers have to determine how feasible their idea is, over the course of nine months.
Phase II of the project development continues over the next two years. During this period, further technological advances are made. Then, in Phase III, projects need to be developed to produce the greatest possible impact. The results of the various projects can then be used by NASA or other government agencies or business partners.
“As we focus on increasingly challenging destinations for exploration with humans and robots, innovative ideas will be critical to help us reach new heights,” said Pam Melroy, NASA’s deputy administrator. “Projects like those studied with this new round of NIAC funding are helping us expand the scope of the possible so we can make it a reality.”
One of the newly funded projects is a probe equipped with a parachute that could enter Venus’ atmosphere and collect a sample of gas and clouds. The aim of the project, proposed by a team led by Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is to help scientists in their search for life on other planets.
Another Phase I project involves a futuristic spacesuit with a “digital thread” (DT), a digital model that carries information about the suit’s characteristics. Led by Bonnie Dunbar, a former NASA astronaut now based at Texas A&M University, this idea would allow Mars astronauts to have inexpensive, bespoke spacesuits.
Using a DT, individuals could enter their body dimensions for the different parts of the spacesuit and eventually 3D print them for maximum comfort, flexibility and accessibility. Plans for spacesuit technology align with NASA’s goals to send humans to Mars in 2030 and conduct regular spacewalks there.
Some of the Phase II studies, which the researchers hope to complete in the near future, include a device capable of expanding and rotating in space to create artificial gravity, climbing robots for studying the caves of Mars, and probes capable of analyzing the atmosphere of the planet Venus at heights between 50 and 60 kilometers above the ground, where temperatures are moderate enough to (perhaps) support Earth-like microbial life.
The full list of projects selected for NIAC 2022 grants and their lead researchers is as follows:
- Radar criosferico Rydberg (Darmindra Arumugam, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California)
- Silent solid-state propulsion for advanced air mobility vehicles (Steven Barrett, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge)
- Combined Heat Shield and Solar Thermal Propulsion System for an Oberth Maneuver (Jason Benkoski, Johns Hopkins University di Baltimora)
- CREW HaT: Cosmic Radiation Extended Warding using the Halbach Torus (Elena D’Onghia, Università del Wisconsin-Madison)
- The Spacesuit Digital Thread: 4.0 Manufacturing High Performance Custom Space Suits for Mars Exploration (Bonnie Dunbar, Texas A&M University in College Station)
- Breathing Mars Air: Stationary and Portable O2 Generation (Ivan Ermanoski, Arizona State University in Tempe)
- Pi: Terminal Defense for Humanity (Philip Lubin, University of California, Santa Barbara)
- Hybrid Observatory for Earth-Like Exoplanets (HOEE) (John Mather, NASA Goddard)
- In situ neutral optic velocity analyzer for thermospheric exploration (INOVATE) Marcin Pilinski, University of Colorado, Boulder
- Starburst: a revolutionary architectural structure deployable adaptable (Jonathan Sauder, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California)
- Venus Atmosphere and Cloud Particle Sample Return for Astrobiology (Sara Seager, Massachusetts Institute of Technology di Cambridge)
- AMBITO: ScienceCraft for Outer Planet Exploration (Mahmooda Sultana, NASA Goddard)
- BREEZE: Nature-inspired flight system for exploring extreme environments such as Venus (Javid Bayandor, State University of New York at Buffalo)
- Spatial structures folding on a kilometer scale able to be deployed with a single launch (Zac Manchester, Carnegie Mellon University di Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
- Atomic Planar Power for Lightweight Exploration (APPLE) (E. Joseph Nemanick, The Aerospace Corporation di El Segundo, California)
- ReachBot: smallwith mobile robotic platform per aactivity of manipulation in Martian caves (Marco Pavone, Stanford University in California)
- SWIM: Sensing con micro-robot swimming inemployees equipped with sensor systems, for the exploration of extraterrestrial oceans (Ethan Schaler, NASA JPL)
Source: Tom's Hardware by www.tomshw.it.
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