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Monday, May 16, 2016

Habitats and Sleep Chambers

Self-assembling space habitats and a deep sleep chamber for long-duration space missions sound like ideas ripped right from the pages of a science fiction novel, but these are some of the visionary projects NASA is currently developing.
Through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program (NIAC), the agency invests in many seemingly impossible technologies. Known for taking out-of-the-box concepts that seem like science fiction and turning them into science fact, the program is changing the future of space travel.
NASA just announced that eight concepts were given the green light to move to the next development phase. NIAC’s phase II awards $500,000 for two years of study in order to further test these technologies. This year's selections include a special habitat designed to induce cryosleep for on long-duration missions, a robotic space habitat that is able to build itself and grow in lunar orbit (making it a perfect orbital outpost), and much more.
“The NIAC program is one of the ways NASA engages the U.S. scientific and engineering communities, including agency civil servants, by challenging them to come up with some of the most visionary aerospace concepts,” Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate said in a statement. “This year’s Phase II fellows have clearly met this challenge.”
Here on Earth when we go on long trips, rest stops and gas stations are essential. This is also true for long-duration space travel. Fuel is heavy and expensive to launch, so why not have a series of orbital outposts set up like rest stops throughout the Solar System? Here’s where NIAC comes in. A group of engineers is testing the feasibility of growable habitats. Not to be confused with expandable space habitats like BEAM, these Growth-Adapted Tensegrity Structures (GATs) would be built in space by robots and are able to grow and evolve as needed. The project will explore the possibility of setting up the first outpost just beyond the Moon, and if successful we could eventually see these throughout the Solar System.
Right now NASA has its sights set on Mars, but eventually the agency plans on venturing out into deep space—a journey that could take years rather than months. To help mitigate the effects of aging on long-duration space travel, a group of engineers is working to develop a deep sleep chamber. This could lay the foundation for future cryo-sleep chambers and other forms of suspended animation. The proposed chamber is designed to medically-support astronauts who are in a deep sleep. Over the next two years, engineers will assess how long-duration sedation affects our organs and how to counteract bone loss and muscle atrophy that occurs during deep sleep.
Last month, Stephen Hawking teamed up with Yuri Milner to announce their plans of sending a fleet of tiny spacecraft to Alpha Centauri with lasers. The project is revolutionary because we don’t currently have the technology capable of sending one spacecraft, let alone a fleet to our closest stellar neighbor in any reasonable amount of time. However, one NIAC proposal is looking at a new method of propulsion to help us do just that. The Directed Energy Interstellar Study aims to pave the way for interstellar travel. Current propulsion systems cannot achieve the relativistic speeds required for interstellar travel, but by scaling down the spacecraft and directing them with specialized lasers, researchers believe they can.
This type of technology will not only revolutionize space travel but could allow us to study nearby exoplanets in greater detail.
Program executives are hopeful that with the additional funding, these projects will all go on to do what NIAC does best: change the possible.…/tensegrity-approaches-to-in-space-con……/niac-2016-phase-i-and-phase-ii-select……/nasa-is-investing-in-growable……/fi…/files/Bradford_2013_PhI_Torpor.pdf…/a-brief-history-of-cryosleep…/starshot-alpha-centuri-stephe……/directed-energy-interstella……/deep-in-directed-energy-propulsion-f…