NASA Selects Eight Teams of Young, Ambitious University Students


NASA architects, engineers and scientists are already busy creating sustainable, space-based living quarters, work spaces and laboratories for next-generation human space exploration, including our journey to Mars. This 2011 version of the deep space habitat at the Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) analog field test site in Arizona features a Habitat Demonstration Unit, with the student-built X-Hab loft on top, a hygiene compartment on one side and airlock on the other.
Credits: NASA

To be the cutting edge of innovation in engineering and design of new deep space habitats 

Space news (New space technology: deep space habitats; 2016 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge) – NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division headquarters – 


In one scenario of the Desert Research and Technology Studies in the Arizona desert, a test subject returns to a mock way station. Credit: NASA

NASA engineers, scientists, and systems designers are hard at work creating the next-generation habitats needed to travel and live in space and one day inhabit Mars. Deep within NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) test site in Arizona, they have assembled the 2011 version of the deep space habitat. A futuristic space habitat featuring a Habitat Demonstration Unit with X-Hab loft, a second story habitation designed and built by a team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as part of the 2011 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge. 


The 2016 X-Hab Student Academic Challenge has selected eight university teams to design, engineer and build a next-generation space habitation. Credit: NASA/NSPF

The X-Hab Academic Challenge program’s designed and implemented to help get graduate and undergraduate level university students directly involved in the development of deep space technology capable of allowing humans to live and travel in space and eventually colonize Mars. Students are encouraged to develop and implement skills and knowledge in all areas and disciplines, team up with industry and experts and actively engage the world in a conversation concerning their work. All in an effort to improve and develop science knowledge, technical ability, leadership qualities and project skills of students selected and encourage further studies in space industry disciplines. 


Cutaway of inflatable airlock highlighting doors, support structures and suitports.
Credits: University of Maryland
The 2016 X-Hab Academic Challenge is the sixth event and this year NASA scientists and engineers are working with graduate and undergraduate students from eight American universities on new technology projects to enable astronauts to travel into deep space and the Red Planet. Earlier in the year, student teams submitted proposals, which were selected after extensive analysis by NASA. During the 2015-2016 academic year, each team will design, engineer, build and test all project systems and concepts hand in hand with scientists and engineers from NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. NASA staff will work with student teams selected on next-generation life support systems, space habitats and deep space food production systems needed for the success of future manned missions to Mars. 


Organics and Agricultural Sustainment Inflatable System (OASIS) Habitat Interior
Credits: Oklahoma State University

“These strategic collaborations lower the barrier for university students to assist NASA in bridging gaps and increasing our knowledge in architectural design trades, capabilities, and technology risk reduction related to exploration activities that will eventually take humans farther into space than ever before,” said Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division. 


Official portrait of Jason Crusan at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. Credit: NASA

The teams and projects selected as part of NASA’s X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge are listed below. 

AES’s In-space Manufacturing division sponsorships are: 

The University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez is working on the development of new low-power technology required for the manufacture of metals in zero-gravity environments 

AES’s Beyond Earth Habitation division sponsorships are: 

The University of Maryland, College Park is working on next-generation airlocks that are inflatable 

Students from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York are working on habitat designs to keep astronauts safe and warm during their trip to the Red Planet

Oklahoma State University, Stillwater students are doing studies on deep space habitats suitable for a trip to the Red Planet 

AES’s Life Support Systems division sponsorships are: 

Students from the University of South Alabama, Mobile are working on a new concentration swing frequency response device 

AES’s Space Life and Physical Sciences division sponsorships are:  

Students from Utan State University, Logan are designing new experimental plant systems for microgravity environments 

The team from Ohio State University, Columbus is working on improving water delivery in modular vegetable production systems needed to provide astronauts with food during their journey and life on Mars 

The team from the University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder is working on improving the performance of the Mars OASIS Space Plant Growth System 

The X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge is led by NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation in an effort to enable the human journey to the beginning of space and time. The program supports space science research efforts to develop sustainable and cost-effective robotic and human space technology to make our journey possible. It also helps train and develop highly skilled scientists, engineers, and technicians needed to design and implement technology developed to travel and live in space. 

Partners in space exploration

NASA lends its scientists, engineers and space exploration technology, and experience to the X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge. The National Space Grant Foundation administers the grants provided by NASA, which range from $10,000 to $30,000, to fund the building, development and final evaluation of each project selected and completed during the 2015-2016 academic year. 

Find more information on previous X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenges here

Join the conversation and space journey of NASA

Find out more about the work of the National Space Grant Foundation here

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NASA Seeks Private-Public Business Partnerships to Enable the Human Desire to Explore Mars and Asteroids

Visiting Mars and a nearby asteroid is an adventure far beyond climbing the tallest mountain or sailing the deepest seas

Low-resolution VMC image acquired on 15 December 2012 at 03:10:03 GMT at an altitude of 9761.02 km above Mars, on Mars Express orbit number 11,396. On 18 December 2012, this image was selected as the symbolic
Low-resolution VMC image acquired on 15 December 2012 at 03:10:03 GMT at an altitude of 9761.02 km above Mars, on Mars Express orbit number 11,396.
On 18 December 2012, this image was selected as the symbolic “first data” to be downloaded via ESA’s new Malargüe deep-space tracking station in Argentina. The image was acquired by the Visual Monitoring Camera on the Mars orbiter and traveled 327 million km in just over 18 minutes.
The tracking pass began at about 22:11 GMT (23:11 CET) on 18 December. On arrival at the station, the data were transmitted to ESOC, ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.
Credit: ESA


Space news (December 1, 20140) enabling the journey to Mars –

NASA recently reached out to the public to ask for proposals concerning the development of the concepts and technology required to travel to a nearby asteroid or Mars in the near future. They want to develop partnerships with private individuals and businesses to share combined funding to develop faster space propulsion systems, space habitats capable of keeping humans alive in deep space for extended periods, and small satellites to explore the solar system.

This 3D image shows what it would look like to fly over the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was generated by data collected by the Rosetta Lander Imaging System (ROLIS) aboard the European Space Agency's Philae spacecraft during the decent to the spacecraft's initial touchdown on the comet Nov. 12.
This 3D image shows what it would look like to fly over the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was generated by data collected by the Rosetta Lander Imaging System (ROLIS) aboard the European Space Agency’s Philae spacecraft during the descent to the spacecraft’s initial touchdown on the comet Nov. 12.

NASA and their partners will make use of the Moon and space around it to help enable the next phase of the human journey to the beginning of space and time. It will be easier to both manufactures many of the things needed to enable the journey and develop many of the technologies required on or in space around the Moon. At the same time, we’ll learn many things about traveling and surviving in space needed to make the trip and return.

NASA seeks proposals to develop a state-of-the-art solar electric propulsion system in the 50 to the 300-kilowatt range. Currently, NASA uses systems generating less than five kilowatts. They have also selected proposals to develop a solar electric propulsion system in the 40-kilowatt range.

NASA currently has Orion in development, a human habitation capable of keeping four human beings alive in deep space for 21 days and bringing them back to Earth in one piece. They seek proposals concerning possible studies and the development of technologies and concepts to allow humans to travel to a nearby asteroid or Mars and return safely after exploring extensively.

They intend to study architecture, subsystems, and engineering of a modular habitat capable of doing the job. NASA will use any habitat designed and engineered to enable planned missions to the Moon, which will help test it for use in future missions. Studies proposed should address transportation, habitation, operations or environmental capabilities of a modular space habitat.

NASA’s also hoping to form partnerships with private firms and individuals in the development and delivery of small satellites called CubeSats. Proposals selected will fly as secondary payloads on Exploration Mission-1, which offers an opportunity to launch these CubeSats into deep space and enable future space science, technology growth, exploration and commercial applications.

NASA wants to provide rewards or incentives for private concerns and individuals desiring to take a hand or increase their stake in the future of human space exploration through this announcement. They’re doing this in order to both accomplish current missions and objectives and sustain current investments in space technologies and capabilities needed to journey to the beginning of space and time. They expect partners to contribute significantly to any agreement since any technology or capabilities developed could make a lot of money.

Check it out!

NASA asks all interested private firms or individuals to submit their proposals electronically by 4:30 p.m. EST December 12, 2014.  American businesses, charities and international institutions are all eligible to apply. All rewards or incentives can be affected by the amount of money available. NASA could hold off on making awards until it receives funding for the next year or decides to make awards in certain areas and keep the rest back until they know exactly where they stand financially.

You can find more information on this NASA initiative here.

For more information on NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships go here.

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