NASA Funding Suspended Animation and 11 Other Cool Ideas

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NASA is funding 12 imaginative tech concepts, hoping that at least one of the ideas will lead to big breakthroughs being made in space science and exploration. One of the cool ideas they’re funding is straight from the pages of science fiction novels: suspended animation.

On longer journeys through space, like a mission to Mars or other planets further away, placing astronauts into suspended animation might prove to be the best method to ensure that they arrive at their destination at roughly the same age that they left Earth, like in the movie Planet of the Apes.

The initial 12 ideas were selected under Phase 1 of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, or NIAC. Even more are in the works.

One of the other 11 cool ideas is to build biomaterials such as human tissue with a 3D printer

According to NIAC program executive Jay Falker:

These new Phase 1 selections include potential breakthroughs for Earth and space science, diverse operations and the potential for new paths that expand human civilization and commerce into space.”

How much are the Phase 1 awards worth?

The Phase 1 awards that NASA is funding are worth about $100,000. The money that the selected mission teams will receive will be used to conduct nine-month initial analysis studies. After this, if they are successful and NASA likes what they see, the teams can apply for Phase 2 funding of approximately $500,000 for two more years of concept development.

The Pulsed Fission-Fusion (Puff) Propulsion System is another of the concepts proposed that got NASA Phase 1 funding. Their principal investigators are Rob Adams, and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

The suspended animation project’s actual title is the “Torpor-Inducing Transfer Habitat For Human Stasis To Mars.” Its principal investigators are John Bradford and Spaceworks Engineering, Inc.

Another of the projects involves is called “Two-Dimensional Planetary Surface Landers” and involves just what the title suggest, creating two-dimensional planetary surface landers. Hamid Hemmati and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory are the principal investigators behind this interesting project.

“Dual-mode Propulsion System Enabling CubeSat Exploration of the Solar System” is yet another project of the 12. The principal investigators for it are Nathan Jerred and the Universities Space Research Association.

Then, there’s a project called “Growth Adapted Tensegrity Structures: A New Calculus for the Space Economy.” Anthony Longman is this project’s principal investigator.

“Eternal Flight as the Solution for ‘X'” is a project whose principal investigators are Mark Moore and the NASA Langley Research Center.

NASA is already doing mapping of planets, moons, and suns, so that is likely what attracted them to fund the project called “Deep Mapping of Small Solar System Bodies with Galactic Cosmic Ray Secondary Particle Showers.” This project’s principal investigators are Thomas Prettyman and the Planetary Science Institute.

The 3D printing project is actually titled “Biomaterials Out of Thin Air: In Situ, On-Demand Printing of Advanced Biocomposites,” and Lynn Rothschild and the NASA Ames Research Center are the principal investigators for it.

“Plasmonic Force Propulsion Revolutionizes Nano/PicoSatellite Capability” is a promising project whose principal investigators are Joshua Rovey and the University of Missouri, Rolla.

Like the robots known as the Transformers? Then, you might dig the next project, called “Transformers for Extreme Environments.” Adrian Stoica and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are the project’s principal investigators.

The second-from-the-last project NASA’s funding is called “10-Meter Sub-Orbital Large Balloon Reflector” and its principal investigators are Christopher Walker and the University of Arizona.

Finally, there’s the project titled “Low-Mass Planar Photonic Imaging Sensor” whihc has as its principal investigators Ben Yoo and the University of California, Davis.

How long has the NIAC program been around?

In its present form, the NIAC program has been operating since 2011. The NIAC was originally called the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. It ran from 1998 through 2007.

Congress, in 2008, ordered the U.S. National Research Council to investigate NIAC’s effectiveness and importance. The reviews were favorable, and lead to the program’s resurrection several years later.

Which of these 12 cool ideas that NASA’s funding will eventually become successful and be used by the space organization in the future? Who knows — possibly all of them.If suspended animation is one that gets chosen, hopefully future astronauts won’t awaken to discover that they’ve landed on a planet ruled over by simians.

Written by: Douglas Cobb

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