August 9, 2022

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NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts: Visionary Technology Could Pioneer the Future in Space

Illustrations of the tasks that have been chosen for Phase I of the 2021 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. Credit: NASA

Dozens of ideas are being introduced at this yr’s NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Symposium, together with eight led by technologists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA missions make it seem to be the long run is now – rovers exploring Mars with cutting-edge devices, a spacecraft venturing house with an asteroid pattern, and a posh house telescope peering on the early universe. So, what’s the following large factor? What would possibly house missions in 2050 and past got down to uncover?

One small NASA program goals to see what could possibly be attainable. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, a part of the company’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, funds early-stage analysis into sci-fi sounding, futuristic expertise ideas. The purpose is to seek out what would possibly work, what won’t, and what thrilling new concepts researchers might provide you with alongside the way in which.

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is just not your typical NASA program. From deep house human exploration to superior propulsion and robotics, the NIAC program goals to vary the attainable by supporting early stage house expertise analysis that would seriously change the long run. This video represents analysis research throughout the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. NIAC is a visionary and far-reaching aerospace program, one which has the potential to create breakthrough applied sciences for attainable future house missions. However, such early stage expertise developments might by no means develop into precise NASA missions. Credit: NASA 360

During NIAC’s annual Symposium September 21-23, 2021, researchers will current concepts that would sooner or later be game-changers in house. Watch the event to be taught extra about these 4 expertise ideas and extra.

1. Swimming micro-robots for ocean worlds.

Ocean worlds, the place liquid oceans lie beneath miles of icy crust, are among the most certainly 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 concept for exploration: Using 3D-printed, centimeter-scale robots geared up with sensors and actuators. A mothercraft that drilled by means of the ice and deployed the micro-bots would additionally wirelessly management them utilizing ultrasound waves.

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

While swimming robots could possibly be best for some locations, others would require one thing with a firmer grip. Marco Pavone, an affiliate professor at Stanford University, is growing a possible resolution. His ReachBot idea may shortly crawl by means of caves, utilizing extendable booms to understand over lengthy distances. Its numerous options would enable small and light-weight robots to maneuver round in difficult environments, corresponding to vertical cliff partitions or the rocky and uneven flooring of caves on Mars.

3. Lightweight deployable buildings that increase in house.

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

4. Seeding asteroids with fungi to create house soil.

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

The 2021 NIAC symposium kicked off on Tuesday, September 21. A keynote tackle by the Mars 2020 Planetary Protection Lead Moogega Cooper will air on NASA Television, the company’s website, and the NASA app.

NASA selects NIAC proposals by means of a peer-review course of that evaluates innovation and technical viability. All tasks are nonetheless within the early phases of growth, with most requiring a decade or extra of expertise maturation. They should not thought of official NASA missions.

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