The astronaut enters the body scanner and within hours can ascend to the surface of Mars in a custom-made spacesuit. Breathing oxygen is continuously extracted from Mars’ carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. Inflatable bird-like drones once again cross the sky of Venus. Their task is to study the atmosphere of the planet and the weather phenomena in it. Does the first sentence of this article sound like you’re pulling them out of a sci-fi story? You’re right, nothing like this is possible with the current state of technology, but some of these visions may one day become reality. Finances recently approved by NASA should also help them.
The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program aims to support research opportunities by covering funding for studies that are still at an early stage. These studies aim to evaluate technological proposals that could one day find application in future space missions. In the next phase, a total of $5.1 million will be distributed among 17 research teams from 9 US states.
“As we examine the increasingly complex goals of manned and unmanned exploration, innovative ideas and forward-looking ideas become increasingly important elements in helping us achieve these milestones,” said said Pam Melroy, NASA Deputy Administrator, adding, “Concepts like those receiving financial support through the CANI program will help us expand our reach.” The selected concepts include 12 proposals for the first phase studies, as well as five proposals for the second phase. Under it, researchers can continue their previous work on innovative concepts. It should be remembered that all the selected projects are still in the draft phase. They are therefore at an early stage of development and it is certainly not possible to say that they have been approved for implementation. Participants in the first phase will each receive $175,000 to use for a nine-month study. Their colleagues in the second phase will receive $600,000 and their studies will last two years.
“NASA space missions require new technologies and new implementations,” said Jim Reuter, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Missions Directorate (STMD), adding, “Exploring these creative ideas is the first step in making science fiction a reality.In the first phase Among the projects will be, for example, an innovative design of a manned spacecraft, which should offer better protection against cosmic radiation during long missions than the existing return cabins. He will also be interested in a probe project that would use the heat of the Sun to escape from the solar system at unimaginable speed. However, NASA is not only concerned with space but also with technologies Thus, among the concepts supported we find the design of a perfectly silent electric aircraft.
John Mather, a Nobel laureate and astrophysicist at the Goddard Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has proposed a concept that would allow humanity to study distant Earth-like exoplanets. A shade the size of a football field would work with ground-based telescopes to align with space to shield distant starlight. This would make it easier for astronomers to search for traces of life in the planetary atmospheres of other star systems. Their observations would not be disturbed by the intense light from the parent star.
The concept, devised by Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, would help scientists study a planet much closer to us – Venus. The spacecraft is expected to use a parachute to enter the planet’s atmosphere to collect samples of gases and materials from the clouds. The samples would then be transported to Earth, where scientists would search for traces of life in Venus’ atmosphere. This planet’s atmosphere is one of the few places where life could exist on this otherwise very hot planet with overwhelming pressure.
Within the concepts of the second phase, we find for example the design of small climbing robots which could explore underground caves on other bodies. Another concept aims to provide spacecraft with innovative uses of nuclear energy, while another sees the potential for a flight of floating 3D-printed microrobots that could explore the sea on bodies such as Europa, Enceladus or Titan. In the second phase, the concept behind Zac Manchester of Carnegie Mellon University also emerged. His proposal is for artificial gravity in outer space using a mile-long rotating assembly. After launch on a single rocket, the launched structure is expected to expand up to one hundred and ten times its original size. Eventually, it is to become a giant rotating residential installation providing artificial gravity at certain points of the structure comparable to the level of gravity of the earth.
“As in previous years, our new team of NIAC-awarded scientists demonstrates the creativity and vision of the entire space community,” said Michael LaPointe, executive director of the NIAC program at NASA.
Author: Dusan Majer
Taken from Kosmonautix.cz, modified