NASA’s NIAC program gives us a glimpse into the future of space travel

From “Star Trek” or something Medical scanners to the concept of extraterrestrial agriculture, such as Vast, Science fiction often inspires practical research by NASA and other space agencies. This week, researchers will meet at a virtual meeting of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program to brainstorm and study science fiction ideas, some of which may well shape the mission for the next 20 years.

A sort of Unmanned helicopter Ten years ago, jumping around on Mars craters or lunar rover to map the moon’s ice seemed a bit far-fetched, but in fact this helicopter Flew earlier this year, And the rover is in the planning stage. Now, conference organizers have solicited proposals for more exploratory projects, some of which may eventually receive funding from the agency. “We invest in long-term, unreachable technologies, but most of them may not work. Those who do may change everything. It has high risks and high returns, almost like a risky portfolio,” NIAC project Executive Officer Jason Derleth said.

Derleth said that the plan does not focus on incremental development, but seeks game-changing technologies that are 10 times better than the most advanced technologies. He likened it to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Pentagon, which also explored highly speculative concepts but pioneered innovations such as the modern Internet.

Annual meeting Meeting, Which lasts until Thursday, September 23, and is publicly available on NIAC liveSome of the proposals discussed so far—such as new methods of launching a foldable space station or astronaut’s habitat, or extracting resources from other worlds—revolve around the understanding that in a long space voyage, you must fully Launch with every rocket.

The next generation of space travelers will need resources to survive, protect structures, and provide fuel for further journeys or home. “This leaves us with two options: take everything with us, as if you were hiking in the desert. Or find new and creative ways to use what you already have,” University of Texas at El Paso Amelia Gregg, an aerospace engineer at the branch campus, said she spoke at the meeting on Tuesday.

To help creatively reuse lunar resources, Greig and her colleagues proposed a technique called ablative arc mining Ice water And the types of metals that can be used as building materials. “It’s like using controlled lightning to mine the moon,” she said in her speech. Her concept describes a lunar tracked vehicle the size of a van-named after the Javanese tracked vehicle. Star wars——Choose a point and place a ring device with its front end parallel to the ground. The arc passes through the ring, which can reach a meter in diameter, tearing particles from the surface of the moon. These now charged particles can be moved and classified by the electromagnetic field of the machine. In that case, instead of just limiting one resource, a piece of equipment can be filled with water in one container, oxygen connected to other elements in another container, and silicon, aluminum or other metals in other containers. Particles.

Artistic representation of the ablative arc mining system deployed in the crater near the south pole of the moon.

Illustration: Janet Hill/Creative Studio/Teacher Leadership and Development Center/UTEP

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