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NASA Concepts: Visions of the Future at 2021 NIAC symposium


Published on: September 22, 2021,

With exploring the space NASA also works to create tools and techniques for the future. Dozens of new concepts are being presented at this year’s NASA Innovative Advanced Concept Symposium which is led by technologists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. With these missions NASA will make seem the future is here. Some of examples are rovers exploring Mars with cutting edge gadgets, a spacecraft travelling earth with asteroid sample and a complex telescope peering at early universe.


With many NASA concepts one program aims to see what could be possible. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program they will fund early stage research into sci-fi sounding, future technology concepts. The main aim is to find what work and what will not. Also new ideas will be presented by the researcher.


During NIAC’s annual Symposium September 21-23, 2021 researchers will present ideas that can change how we are studying space. Here are the four technology concepts and more. Watch the event for more.


Swimming micro-robots for ocean worlds.


There are ocean world that lie beneath miles of icy crust and are likely locations to harbor life. It is an enticing prospect for scientists as well as present unique challenges. Ethan Schaler a robotics mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California is researching one promising idea for exploration. A mother craft will drill through ice and micro-bots will wirelessly control them using ultrasound waves.


Long-reach crawling and anchoring robots for Martian caves.


There are too destinations that will require a firmer grip. Marco Pavone, an associate professor at Stanford University, is developing a potential solution. He has come up with a concept called ReachBot that could crawl through caves and go through long distances. These light waves robots will move in tricky environment such as vertical cliff walls and rocky caves on Mars.


Lightweight deployable structures that expand in space.


Getting extra light space craft takes a lot of planning. Though multiple launches are in space assembly have proven successful there can be a way. Assistant professors is considering way to integrate recent advances in mechanical metamaterials into a lightweight deployable structure design. Such a structure can be launched into a single rocket fairing and can be deployed to final size of length of 10 football fields.


Seeding asteroids with fungi to create space soil.


Space habitation come in all shapes and sizes. There is a challenge at how space travelers will sustain long journey? Jane Shevtsov working with Trans Astronautica Corporation, offers creating soil from carbon-rich asteroid material. The fungi can degrade toxic substances just like oyster mushroom cleans up petroleum contaminated soil. The NIAC research aims to find a way for future space habitats to have ample green space and for agricultural systems.


All these projects are still in early stages of development. They will require a decade or more thus they are still not official NASA missions. The 2021 NIAC symposium kicked off Tuesday, September 21. A keynote addressed by Mars 2020 will air on NASA television, the agency’s website and NASA app.



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