The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program deals with cutting-edge technology ideas under NASA. This program is called NIAC for short. So far more than a dozen researchers have received grants from NIAC’s far-reaching program.
With these grants, they can research their ideas on a wider scale. These ideas suggest technologies that defy science fiction. It seems as if these technologies have emerged from somewhere between reality and fantasy.
Portable Magnetic Highway
A robotics engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is working on how to build a communications system on the moon using a portable magnetic highway.
When humans settle on the moon for a long time, there will be a need for regular cargo transport. Air, water or fuel, whatever the need, the moon’s soil will be dug up. As a result, the excavated soil will need to be transported. The basic idea for this work is to lay a flat road. This road would be rolled or paved and would allow roads to be built on the lunar surface without permanent infrastructure.
This magnetic highway will be levitated or floated in the air by using the magnetic field of this magnetic highway with automatic transport robots. Then these robots will carry the highway. This would be possible because the moon has no air and very little gravity. As a result, magnetic highways can be carried from one place on the moon to another without wind friction.
The same researcher at the Jet Propulsion Lab is experimenting with another robot that can swim. This swimbot can easily travel to Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Titan where there is methane.
As human travel in space increases, more dangerous and inaccessible water environment will be faced. Vehicles that can move on the ground or fly in the sky are currently being used to conduct missions to various planets. Because, these planets or satellites have perfect surface. However, new technologies such as Swimbots will be needed to explore satellites of planets like Jupiter or Saturn.
Creating space soil
Researchers at Trans Astronautica Corporation plan to create fertile soil from asteroids. That is why they will first fertilize the soil by taking fungus from the earth. That soil will then be used to grow plants and crops in space.
Before this, the idea of mining asteroids for mining precious metals has long been considered by researchers. That is why they planned to bring the asteroid into the orbit of the Earth or the Moon or go directly to the asteroid and dig. But this idea of creating crop soil from asteroids is really novel.
Just as there is no shortage of asteroids floating around in our solar system, so too is the potential for fertile soil to grow crops. Perhaps by growing crops from this soil, it will be possible to provide food for a large population someday.
Ready made space home
An associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University is working on lightweight collapsible equipment under the supervision of NASA. These devices can be easily moved. As a result, they have the potential to be used as ‘building blocks’ to build structures in space. These blocks can be used to build large buildings or structures several kilometers long in space.
The space home is much like how science fiction writers envisioned building settlements in space. It will be the type of establishment where there will be large settlements. And at the same time the installations will have their own self-contained ecosystem for sustaining life.
Supercharged Solar Power
A researcher at NASA’s Langley Research Center is working on ultra-strong solar energy. The idea is to capture, redirect and focus the sun’s energy using the telescope’s optics.
Although the use of solar energy is nothing new, harnessing this energy on the lunar soil is quite a challenge. This requires designing systems that are small and light. Which can be easily carried from earth to moon. At the same time, advanced technology will be used to capture as much energy as possible from sunlight.
Science fiction gives us inspiration for new inventions, new technologies and scientific endeavours. It is also true that many inventions and technologies aimed at space exploration stretch our imaginations. At the same time, our innovative capabilities are also greatly developed.
As humans think about colonizing space from Earth, such adventurous thinking is becoming more natural for the next generation.