NASA invests in spacecraft and reprogrammable microorganisms
NASA has selected 13 proposals, including four from agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, through NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a program that invests in transformative architectures through the development of pioneering technologies.
Among the selected are: a concept for reprogramming microorganisms that could use the Martian environment to recycle and print electronics; a two-dimensional spacecraft with ultra-thin subsystems that may wrap around space debris to enable de-orbiting; and a method of computational imaging that leverages extrasolar intensity fluctuations to detect "echoes" from planets and other structures orbiting a distant star.
NIAC Phase I awards are valued at approximately $100,000 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, valued up to $500,000 for two additional years of concept development.
The 2016 portfolio of Phase I concepts cover a wide range of innovations selected for their potential to revolutionise future aerospace missions. Such breakthroughs hold the promise of accelerating NASA's progress toward its goals of exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, missions to an asteroid and Mars, and other priority areas in all of NASA's mission directorates. NIAC partners with forward-thinking scientists, engineers and citizen inventors from across the nation to help maintain America's leadership in air and space.
The 2016 Phase I concepts connected with JPL are:
- Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion (VIP-INSPR), Ratnakumar Bugga;
- Journey to the Center of Icy Moons, Masahiro Ono;
- E-Glider: Active Electrostatic Flight for Airless Body Exploration, Marco Quadrelli;
- Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments, Jonathan Saude.
The other Phase I concepts are:
- Light Weight Multifunctional Planetary Probe for Extreme Environment Exploration and Locomotion, Javid Bayandor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg;
- Project RAMA: Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata, Jason Dunn, Made In Space, Inc. in Moffett Field, California;
- Molecular Composition Analysis of Distant Targets, Gary Hughes, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo;
- Brane Craft, Siegfried Janson, The Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles;
- Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets, Chris Mann, Nanohmics, Inc. in Austin, Texas;
- Mars Molniya Orbit Atmospheric Resource Mining, Robert Mueller, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida;
- Urban Bio-Mining Meets Printable Electronics: End-To-End At Destination Biological Recycling And Reprinting, Lynn Rothschild, NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California;
- Fusion-Enabled Pluto Orbiter and Lander, Stephanie Thomas, Princeton Satellite Systems, Inc. in Plainsboro Township, New Jersey;
- NIMPH - Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester, Michael VanWoerkom, ExoTerra Resource, LLC of Littleton, Colorado.