NASA’s NIAC Program Gives Sneak Peek at Future Space Travel

From the same as Star Trek medical scanners on concepts for agriculture not on the planet like The Information, science fiction has always encouraged real -world research by NASA and other space agencies. This week, researchers met at a virtual conference for NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program to brainstorm and investigate sci-fi-like ideas, some of which could be improved. shaping missions over the next 20 years.

A drone helicopter jumping about a Martian crater or a lunar rover plotting moon ice might seem like a decade ago, but the copyist actually flew earlier this year, and the rover is in the planning stages. Now, conference organizers are soliciting proposals for several exploration projects, some of which could be funded later by the agency. “We’re investing in old, far -flung technologies, and most of them probably won’t work. The maker can change everything. It’s high risk, high payout, almost like a portfolio capital investment, ”said Jason Derleth, NIAC’s program executive.

The program isn’t focused on further advances, but instead seeks out technologies that change the game, which are about ten times better than the state of the art, according to Derleth. He likened it to the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which also explores more thoughtful concepts but makes the introduction of the modern internet, among other innovations.

The year conference, which runs through Thursday, Sept. 23, will be publicly available at NIAC’s livestream. Some of the suggestions discussed so far-such as new ways to launch space stations or astronaut habitats, or extract origins from other worlds-revolve around understanding that , for long space trips, you need to take advantage of every rocket launch.

The next generation of space travelers needs resources for survival, for protective structures, and to start traveling further or back home. “It leaves us with two options: Take everything, like if you’re going on a desert trip. Or, find new and creative ways to use whatever’s already there,” says Amelia Greig , an aerospace engineer at the University of Texas at El Paso presented at the conference Tuesday.

To help the creative reuse of the moon’s resources, Greig and his colleagues proposed a technology called ablative arc mining to be destroyed. ice water and the types of metals that can be used as building materials. “It’s like using controlled lightning bolts to mine the moon,” he said in his presentation. His concept defines a crawler as much as the moon crawler – named after the Java sandcrawlers in Star Wars—That selects a spot, and then places a ring device that is brought to the front of it corresponding to the ground. The electric arcs zap across the ring, which can be as much as a meter in diameter, scattering the particles from the moon’s surface. Those particles, which are now charged, can now be transferred and differentiated in the electromagnetic fields of the machine. That way, instead of looking at just one resource, one piece of equipment can fill one container with water, another with oxygen attached to other elements, and another with silicon. , aluminum, or other metal particles.

An artistic representation of the ablative arc mining system spread in a hole near the lunar pole to the south.

Description: Janet Hill / Creative Studios / The Center for Faculty Leadership and Development / UTEP

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