Establishing and maintaining a permanent human presence on Mars promises
to be one of the most technologically challenging ventures ever
undertaken by our species. A key aspect of the endeavor is to create an
environment in which human beings can survive and flourish – this
requires a ready supply of oxygen. NASA is working with Indiana-based
company Techshot Inc. in order to develop a solution with the potential
to produce an abundant source of oxygen with minimal assistance from
NASA has launched a
public challenge with the aim of innovating technologies vital for
the establishment of a colony on Mars. The agency is focused
on a mission to the Red Planet, and has already taken
the first vital steps. However, whilst simply reaching Mars with a
cargo of healthy astronauts would be a monumental triumph,
maintaining a permanent presence on so inhospitable a planet could
prove to be a much greater technological challenge.
Space may be big, but in our neck of the woods it's getting crowded. There are thousands of active and inactive satellites in orbit around Earth, and while Mars may not exactly be Piccadilly Circus, it now has five active satellites circling it. To prevent any unfortunate collisions around the Red Planet, NASA is working on a new traffic management system.
More details have been revealed about the X-37B spaceplane's upcoming OTV-4 mission. When it launches on May 20 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the (not entirely) secret X-37B will carry a NASA experiment called Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) designed to test new materials for use in future spacecraft.
Around one week after it smashed spectacularly into Mercury, NASA's MESSENGER probe has posthumously turned up valuable observations revealing some of the planet's long-held secrets. Using data gleaned from the spacecraft's closest pass of the planet earlier this year, scientists have established its magnetic field to be almost 4 billion years old, shedding new light on how Mercury has evolved over its 4.5 billion year lifespan.
Mornings on the International Space Station (ISS) got a bit brighter as the first cup of espresso coffee
in space was brewed and drank on the station by Italian astronaut
Samantha Cristoforetti. To celebrate, Cristoforetti tweeted back to
Earth a photo of her imbibing the brew, saying, "'Coffee: the finest
organic suspension ever devised.' Fresh espresso in the new Zero-G cup!
To boldly brew…"
SpaceX has carried out a successful test of its Launch Abort System (LAS) for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The test, which took place at Space Launch Complex 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station represents a major stop towards getting the spacecraft human rated under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract. NASA hopes that commercial spacecraft such as the Crew Dragon will return manned spacecraft launches back to American soil sometime in 2017.
When the first Orion astronauts stare back at Earth, they'll be looking through windows made mostly of plastic. Because Orion is designed to carry out manned deep-space missions and even a possible Mars voyage, NASA decided it was time to replace the conventional glass windows with panes of acrylic that are lighter, less expensive, and more structurally sound than previous designs, and is more suited to long-duration missions.
In seeking a compromise between helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, engineers in recent years have opted for tilt rotors, but NASA has dusted off and improved on a tilt wing aircraft design that takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies like an airplane. Called the Greased Lightning, or GL-10, the unmanned prototype made a successful vertical takeoff and transition to horizontal flight at Fort A.P. Hill, not far from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.