NASA invests in 22 visionary exploration concepts, including asteroid mining

Posted by DanielS on Sunday, 09 April 2017 15:30.

NASA: Dawn JPL spacecraft used an ion engine to approach dwarf planet Ceres

PhysOrg, “NASA invests in 22 visionary exploration concepts” 9 April 2017:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is advancing for a new round of research funded by the agency.

In total, the space agency is investing in 22 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

The 2017 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) portfolio of Phase I concepts covers a wide range of innovations selected for their potential to revolutionize future space exploration. Phase I awards are valued at approximately $125,000, for nine months, to support initial definition and analysis of their concepts. If these basic feasibility studies are successful, awardees can apply for Phase II awards.


“The NIAC program engages researchers and innovators in the scientific and engineering communities, including agency civil servants,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “The program gives fellows the opportunity and funding to explore visionary aerospace concepts that we appraise and potentially fold into our early stage technology portfolio.”

The selected 2017 Phase I proposals are:

- A Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture, Adam Arkin, University of California, Berkeley

- A Breakthrough Propulsion Architecture for Interstellar Precursor Missions, John Brophy, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California

- Evacuated Airship for Mars Missions, John-Paul Clarke, Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta

- Mach Effects for In Space Propulsion: Interstellar Mission, Heidi Fearn, Space Studies Institute in Mojave, California

- Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump, Benjamin Goldman, Global Aerospace Corporation in Irwindale, California

- Turbolift, Jason Gruber, Innovative Medical Solutions Group in Tampa, Florida

- Phobos L1 Operational Tether Experiment, Kevin Kempton, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia

- Gradient Field Imploding Liner Fusion Propulsion System, Michael LaPointe, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama

- Massively Expanded NEA Accessibility via Microwave-Sintered Aerobrakes, John Lewis, Deep Space Industries, Inc., in Moffett Field, California

- Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with Area-of-Effect Soft-bots, Jay McMahon, University of Colorado, Boulder

- Continuous Electrode Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion, Raymond Sedwick, University of Maryland, College Park

- Sutter: Breakthrough Telescope Innovation for Asteroid Survey Missions to Start a Gold Rush in Space, Joel Sercel, TransAstra in Lake View Terrace, California

- Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission, Slava Turyshev, JPL
Solar Surfing, Robert Youngquist, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida

- A Direct Probe of Dark Energy Interactions with a Solar System Laboratory, Nan Yu, JPL

“The 2017 NIAC Phase I competition has resulted in an excellent set of studies. All of the final candidates were outstanding,” said Jason Derleth, NIAC program executive. “We look forward to seeing how each new study will expand how we explore the universe.”

Phase II studies allow awardees time to refine their designs and explore aspects of implementing the new technology. This year’s Phase II portfolio addresses a range of leading-edge concepts, including: a Venus probe using in-situ power and propulsion to study the Venusian atmosphere, and novel orbital imaging data derived from stellar echo techniques—measurement of the variation in a star’s light caused by reflections off of distant worlds—to detect exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.

Awards under Phase II of the NIAC program can be worth as much as $500,000, for two-year studies, and allow proposers to further develop Phase I concepts that successfully demonstrated initial feasibility and benefit.

The selected 2017 Phase II proposals are:

- Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion, Ratnakumar Bugga, JPL

- Remote Laser Evaporative Molecular Absorption Spectroscopy Sensor System, Gary Hughes, California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo

- Brane Craft Phase II, Siegfried Janson, The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California

- Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets, Chris Mann, Nanohmics, Inc., Austin, Texas

- Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments, Jonathan Sauder, JPL

- Optical Mining of Asteroids, Moons, and Planets to Enable Sustainable Human Exploration and Space Industrialization, Joel Sercel, TransAstra Corp.

- Fusion-Enabled Pluto Orbiter and Lander, Stephanie Thomas, Princeton Satellite Systems, Inc., Plainsboro, New Jersey

“Phase II studies can accomplish a great deal in their two years with NIAC. It is always wonderful to see how our Fellows plan to excel,” said Derleth. “The 2017 NIAC Phase II studies are exciting, and it is wonderful to be able to welcome these innovators back in to the program. Hopefully, they will all go on to do what NIAC does best—change the possible.”

NASA selected these projects through a peer-review process that evaluated innovativeness and technical viability. All projects are still in the early stages of development, most requiring 10 or more years of concept maturation and technology development before use on a NASA mission.

NIAC partners with forward-thinking scientists, engineers, and citizen inventors from across the nation to help maintain America’s leadership in air and space. NIAC is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

Explore further: NASA invests in two-dimensional spacecraft, reprogrammable microorganisms


Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-04-nasa-invests-visionary-exploration-concepts.html#jCp



Comments:


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Posted by Cassini eyes Saturn moon for life on Tue, 18 Apr 2017 06:53 | #

Cassini spacecraft determines the possibility for Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, to sustain life.


2

Posted by Mars Rover unveiled on Mon, 12 Jun 2017 04:44 | #

Yahoo News, “Nasa unveils six-wheeled Mars rover complete with full laboratory and life support systems”, June 2017:


The Parker Brothers concept of a new Nasa Mars Rover: Nasa

Nasa has unveiled a new Mars rover concept vehicle designed to function “as both a working vehicle and laboratory” for the next generation of space explorers.

The 8.5-metre vehicle would not look out of place in a science-fiction film. It features six huge wheels to allow it to travel over craters, dunes and rocks, a sloping front reminiscent of the Nolan-era Batmobile and solar panels to power everything.

“It features life support systems, navigation and communication systems, and design and materials that relate to conditions and resources on Mars,” Nasa said.

Created by Parker Brothers Concepts, the rover — which looks nothing like the actual vehicles that have trundled over Mars’ surface, 34 million miles away — will promote Nasa’s “summer of Mars” to teach young people about its efforts to land humans on Earth’s neighbouring world.

The concept vehicle will never cruise the dunes of Mars but Nasa believes “one or more of its elements could make its way into a rover astronauts will drive on the red planet”.

The space agency’s next robotic rover is due to touch down in 2020, to “search for signs of past microbial life and collect core samples for a potentially future return to Earth”.


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Posted by More earthlike planets being discovered on Thu, 16 Nov 2017 12:55 | #

Vice, “Scientists found another Earth-like planet, and even more are coming”, 15 Nov 2017:

By Alex Lubben Nov 15, 2017

A planet about a third bigger than Earth that could support life as we know it was found just 11 light years away, researchers announced on Wednesday. More than a dozen potentially habitable planets have been identified so far in 2017, and scientists are just getting started.

“This has always been a booming field,” Debra Fischer, an astronomer with the Yale Exoplanet Laboratory, told VICE News. “You’re right now standing on the threshold of the next sonic boom in exoplanet discoveries.”

The discovery of the new planet, dubbed Ross 128 b, tightly orbits a “quiet” red dwarf star, much like Earth’s sun. Its year, however, is 9.9 days long, meaning it’s closer to the star and receives 40 percent more light from it. That also mean it’s probably a lot hotter than Earth.

Ross 128 b’s discovery follows evidence in 2016 of another potentially habitable planet orbiting the closest star to Earth other than the sun, Proxima Centauri, just 4 light years from Earth. And with new technology just on the horizon, these discoveries could become even more frequent.

Today, planets in tight orbits around red dwarf stars are pretty easy to detect with the instruments currently in use — the same ones scientists have used for the last 15 years. What’s changed recently is that we now know that way more stars have planets than previously thought, largely through the discoveries of NASA’s Kepler mission. In 2015, scientists estimated that there could be as many as 1 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone.

In the next couple of years, new technology will allow us to discover even more “Earths.” For example, European scientists plan to bring “Espresso” — a telescope in the very-scientifically-named category of “Very Large Telescope” — online in late 2017.

And in the U.S., Fischer’s team will bring online another device called EXPRES, an acronym for Extreme Precision Spectrograph, before the end of the year, too.

“The goal of these instruments is to have precision that’s 10 times better than the precision we have today,” Fischer said. “If you look at these discoveries, there were hundreds of observations that were collected to be able to find these planets.”

With the new instruments, “we expect to find the planets faster, with fewer observations,” she added.

READ: NASA’s Cassini mission crashed and burned — and was a huge success

Detecting these stars is one thing though. Figuring out whether they’re habitable is another.

The new planet could be more habitable that the one discovered last year, which orbits a temperamental star, whose constant flares would be a concern. Ross 128 b, however, orbits “the quietest star in its neighborhood,” said Xavier Bonfils, an astronomer at the Institute of Planetary Science and Astrophysics of Grenoble and one of the scientists who discovered it.

But life there could be pretty uncomfortable, at least for humans.

“We don’t know if it has an atmosphere or what it could be made of, but, knowing what we know, our climate models would suggest that this planet would get unbearably hot,” Anthony Del Genio, a co-head of the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science with NASA, told VICE News.

It’s still too early to tell whether Ross 128 b could host life. If it can, life there might look very different from life on Earth. And even if this planet is just a small ball of hot rock, scientists are hopeful that we’ll discover life on another planet with the next few decades.

“For anyone who thinks there isn’t life in our galaxy, it’s getting harder and harder to make that argument. Life might be much more common than we imagine now,” Fischer said.

“I sort of picture this day, ten, twenty, or thirty years from now when we discover life elsewhere. How will humanity deal with that? I don’t know!” she added.



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