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posted by janrinok on Monday April 02 2018, @04:05PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the bright-ideas dept.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program is funding another round of studies of space technology concepts, including shapeshifting robots that can adapt to multiple terrains, a small rover that can carry the bulky life equipment that an astronaut would normally carry on their back, a combined particle and laser beam for accelerating small payloads, space habitats constructed using fungal mycelium, a modular self-assembling space telescope with a large aperture, and a radioisotope positron propulsion system.

Some of the Phase 2 concepts that were selected for further study include a space telescope with a 1 kilometer aperture, a Triton "hopper", a harvester that can manufacture propellant from ice in order to launch a sample return, and a Mach Effect thruster.

Several of the proposals mention the goal of getting a space telescope to at least 548.7 AU away from the Sun to perform astronomy using the Sun as a gravitational lens. For example, the Breakthrough Propulsion Architecture for Interstellar Precursor Missions could get a payload out to 550 AU in 15 years, although it would require a multi-hundred-megawatt phased-array laser.

Projects in Phase 1:

Shapeshifters from Science Fiction to Science Fact: Globetrotting from Titan's Rugged Cliffs to its Deep Seafloors
Aliakbar Aghamohammadi, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California

Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More Effective Exploration
David Akin, University of Maryland, College Park

Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric Venus Sensors (LEAVES)
Jeffrey Balcerski, Ohio Aerospace Institute, Cleveland

Meteoroid Impact Detection for Exploration of Asteroids (MIDEA)
Sigrid Close, Stanford University, California

On-Orbit, Collision-Free Mapping of Small Orbital Debris
Christine Hartzell, University of Maryland, College Park

Marsbee – Swarm of Flapping Wing Flyers for Enhanced Mars Exploration
Chang-kwon Kang, University of Alabama, Huntsville

Rotary Motion Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS)
John Kendra, Leidos, Inc., Reston, Virginia

PROCSIMA: Diffractionless Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions
Chris Limbach, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, College Station

SPARROW: Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds
Gareth Meirion-Griffith, JPL

BALLET: Balloon Locomotion for Extreme Terrain
Hari Nayar, JPL

Myco-Architecture off Planet: Growing Surface Structures at Destination
Lynn Rothscild, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

Modular Active Self-Assembling Space Telescope Swarms
Dmitry Savransky, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Astrophysics and Technical Study of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft
Nickolas Solomey, Wichita State University, Kansas

Advanced Diffractive MetaFilm Sailcraft
Grover Swartzlander, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York

Spectrally-Resolved Synthetic Imaging Interferometer
Jordan Wachs, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colorado

Radioisotope Positron Propulsion
Ryan Weed, Positron Dynamics, Livermore, California

Phase 2 projects that were previously in Phase 1:

Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion Concept
Robert Adams, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama

A Breakthrough Propulsion Architecture for Interstellar Precursor Missions
John Brophy, JPL

Kilometer Space Telescope (KST)
Devon Crowe, Raytheon, El Segundo, California

Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with AoES (Area-of-Effect Soft-bots)
Jay McMahon, University of Colorado, Boulder

Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune's Captured Kuiper Belt Object
Steven Oleson, NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland

Spacecraft Scale Magnetospheric Protection from Galactic Cosmic Radiation
John Slough, MSNW, LLC, Redmond, Washington

Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission
Slava Turyshev, JPL

NIMPH: Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester
Michael VanWoerkom, ExoTerra Resource, Littleton, Colorado

Mach Effect for in space propulsion: Interstellar mission
James Woodward, Space Studies Institute, Inc., Mojave, California


Original Submission

Related Stories

2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration 56 comments

NASA is going back to the Moon, perhaps permanently, as seen in a new road map (image):

Four months after President Trump directed NASA to return to the Moon, the agency has presented a road map to meet the goals outlined in Space Policy Directive-1. The updated plan shifts focus from the previous "Journey to Mars" campaign back to the Moon, and—eventually—to the Red Planet.

"The Moon will play an important role in expanding human presence deeper into the solar system," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA, in a release issued by the agency.

While the revamped plan may share the same destination as the Apollo program, NASA said it will approach the return in a more measured and sustainable manner. Unlike humanity's first trip to the Moon, the journey back will incorporate both commercial and international partners.

To achieve this, NASA has outlined four strategic goals:

  • Transition low-Earth orbit (LEO) human spaceflight activities to commercial operators.
  • Expand long-duration spaceflight activities to include lunar orbit.
  • Facilitate long-term robotic lunar exploration.
  • Use human exploration of the Moon as groundwork for eventual human missions to Mars and beyond.

This may be the best outcome for the space program. Let NASA focus on the Moon with an eye towards permanently stationing robots and humans there, and let SpaceX or someone else take the credit for a 2020s/early-2030s manned Mars landing. Then work on a permanent presence on Mars using cheaper rocket launches, faster propulsion technologies, better radiation shielding, hardier space potatoes, etc.

Previously: President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1

Related:


Original Submission

Imaging an Exoplanet 16 comments

Phys.org reports on the bold plan to take pictures of an exoplanet so sharp that oceans, continents and even clouds would be discernible.

Right now, it's impossible. From our vantage point, exoplanets—planets orbiting other stars—look like fireflies next to spotlights. In the few images we've managed to take of them, the exoplanets are mere dots. Even as the next generation of space telescopes comes online, this won't change—you'd need a 90-kilometer-wide telescope to see surface features on a planet 100 light years away.

A group of researchers has an audacious plan to overcome these difficulties. It involves using solar sail spacecraft—possibly an entire fleet of them—to fly faster and farther away from Earth than any previous space probe, turn around, and use our distant Sun's gravity as a giant magnifying glass. If it works, we'll capture an image of an exoplanet so sharp that we can see features just 10 kilometers across.

Recently awarded a $2 million grant by NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, and spearheaded by JPL physicist Slava Turyshev, the project,

called the Solar Gravity Lens, or SGL, sounds like something straight out of science fiction. NASA and a collection of universities, aerospace companies and other organizations are involved, as well as Planetary Society co-founder Lou Friedman, the original solar sailing guru.

According to Turyshev

The needed technologies do already exist, but the challenge is how to make use of that technology, how to accelerate their development, and then how to best put them to use. I think we are at the beginning of an exciting period in the space industry, where getting to SGL would be practical, and scientifically exciting."

I wonder if it will come with an EF mount.

Previous Coverage
25 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Selected for 2018
Sun Could be Used as a Gravitational Lens by a Spacecraft 550 AU Away

Related
"Terrascope": Earth's Atmosphere Could be Used as a Refraction Lens for a Space Telescope


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by turgid on Monday April 02 2018, @04:12PM (2 children)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 02 2018, @04:12PM (#661548) Journal

    These are the coolest things I have ever seen.

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday April 02 2018, @04:15PM (7 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 02 2018, @04:15PM (#661551) Journal
    It's good to see that James Woodward is getting somewhere with his "Mach-Lorentz" thruster (or MLT). Not sure it'll work out as viable propulsion, but it might also have a future as a communication/imaging device, since it works off of gravitational effects. It might be possible to use sets or arrays of these things to communicate through planets (Earth being the obvious early target of that) and image the interiors of planets and stars.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02 2018, @06:24PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02 2018, @06:24PM (#661604)

      What does the market say?

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday April 02 2018, @07:58PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday April 02 2018, @07:58PM (#661647) Journal

      Is anyone talking about this supposed communications application for the Mach/Woodward effect?

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      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday April 02 2018, @08:46PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 02 2018, @08:46PM (#661659) Journal
        Not to my knowledge. It's a pretty weak effect. I suspect Woodward has enough on his plate right now. Might be someone else doing it.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02 2018, @10:41PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02 2018, @10:41PM (#661702)

      What happened to EM-drive research? Sure, it's a bit of a long-shot, but the closest thing we have to Trek going. China was going to test it "soon" in space, but we get silence. I suspect it failed in space and they are embarrassed.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday April 03 2018, @10:07AM (2 children)

        by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday April 03 2018, @10:07AM (#661885) Journal

        Not much talk about it other than a (low detail propaganda) mention on Chinese TV [nextbigfuture.com] last last year, and Roger Shawyer hyping [nextbigfuture.com] up a more magical version earlier in 2017.

        https://www.nextbigfuture.com/tag/emdrive [nextbigfuture.com]

        There have been numerous EmDrive threads on forum.nasaspaceflight.com where people post their own tests of EmDrive prototypes, basically done in their home basements, but I can't access the forum right now.

        Despite a paper or two finding evidence of anomalous thrust, the state of emdrive research is bad... at least publicly. If the thing does work, it could have significant national security implications [nextbigfuture.com]. Easy disruption/destruction/capture of satellites, high-range flying and hovering drones/cars packed with explosives, free energy devices, etc.

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03 2018, @06:16PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03 2018, @06:16PM (#662063)

          Despite a paper or two finding evidence of anomalous thrust, the state of emdrive research is bad... at least publicly. If the thing does work, it could have significant national security implications [nextbigfuture.com]. Easy disruption/destruction/capture of satellites, high-range flying and hovering drones/cars packed with explosives, free energy devices, etc.

          I know you've been one of the biggest cheerleaders for this, but really? For something that isn't backed by physics and whose "anomalous thrust" measurements are not even convincingly above a signal to noise ratio of 0.5, this is going to give us hovercrafts and free energy devices? Now you're turning the corner and going down the "the Man is going to keep this down" road?

          If that's the road you're travelling, at least jump out ahead and give us a collective noun for "the Man". It should be at least as catchy as "Big Oil" if you want that narrative to stick better.

          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday April 03 2018, @07:49PM

            by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday April 03 2018, @07:49PM (#662119) Journal

            I know you've been one of the biggest cheerleaders for this, but really?

            Well, you actually don't know, do you? All I'm doing is listing implications of the device, IF IT DOES WORK. That says nothing about how confident I am that it is or is not a scam.

            I have to mention free energy devices because some of EmDrive's biggest detractors (e.g. GoatGuy on NextBigFuture) say that if it works as described, it enables such.

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