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NASA Issues Call For Moon, Mars And Beyond Technologies

NASA issued this week a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA)focused on what's needed in human and robotic technology to put into high gearany Moon, Mars, and beyond space exploration.

As part of a sweeping roster of needs, NASA is asking forproposals in the fields of artificial gravity, inflatable structures, as wellas living-off-the-land machinery.

On January 14 of this year U.S. President George W. Bushcarved out a new vision for NASA to:

  • Implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond;
  • Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations;
  • Develop the innovative technology, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and
  • Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.

Roadmapof requests

Since President Bush's pronouncement on January 14 this year, NASA has been busyidentifying key objectives for safe/reliable, affordable and effective futurehuman and robotic space exploration in support of the U.S. Vision for SpaceExploration.

To further this space exploration agenda, the NASA BroadAgency Announcement issued on July 28 is basically a roadmap of requests putout to big and small aerospace firms, universities, and non-profit groups tocome up with creative concepts.

For those wanting to take part, notices of intent are dueAugust 13, with actual proposals due at NASA on September 24.

Take-alonggravity

As a method to help thwart the effects of long-durationmicrogravity on the human body, NASA is now in the market for "structuralconcepts for artificial gravity systems".

"To minimize the degradation of human performance onlong-duration missions, crew transport vehicles will need artificial gravitysystems," declares the NASA BAA. Artificial gravity systems use rotationto generate up to 1-g of centrifugal acceleration.

The space agency is looking for structural concepts forartificial gravity systems, including long deployable trusses and tethers thatcan hold together while spinning through interplanetary space. Such systemsshould also include methods to control rotation rate and structural dynamics.

Puff-uphabitats

Another area NASA is now promoting is use of rigid,deployable, inflatable and erectable structures. 

"A topic of particular interest" the newly issuedBAA explains, is inflatable structures and habitats.

"Minimizing launch volume will also have substantialimpact in reducing the costs for exploration systems. Large inflatablestructures can be folded into compact packages for launch. Inflatablestructures are usually rigidized after deployment so that internal pressure isnot required to maintain structural stiffness and shape. Inflatable structuresare needed for space solar power systems, large apertures, and habitats,"notes the NASA document.

NASA is after concepts for inflatable truss elements thatself-rigidize to enable the in-space assembly of large platforms, andinflatable habitats with integral radiation shielding, impact shielding,thermal management, and equipment to keep tabs of the overall health of theinflatable hardware.

Livingoff the land

One other area that has been long-supported in talk but notenough dollars is use of local resources -- on the Moon, Mars, or othercelestial locales -- to sustain future human explorers.

As explained in the BAA, and under NASA's Lunar andPlanetary Surface Operations (LPSO) Technology effort, the space agency is onthe lookout for resource utilization systems.

"Technology areas of potential interest includeexcavation, extraction, collection, beneficiation technologies for lunar and/orMartian resources." 

The NASA BAA notes this call for proposals includes solidsand/or gases; reconfigurable, modular chemical process technologies foron-the-spot oxygen and/or propellant production from lunar or Mars resources;and technologies for local production of structural feedstock materials fromlunar and/or Martian resources.

Furthermore, the NASA document stresses the need for surfacemanufacturing and construction systems.

Technologies of interest include those for the production ofstructural components using either "imported" feedstock or availablelunar and/or Martian resources; autonomous or tele-operated robotic technologiesfor surface facility assembly and maintenance; and, technologies for off-Earthcreation of solar photovoltaic systems or other energy systems.

For further information: http://www.exploration.nasa.gov/index.html

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