NASA Mars Habitat Challenge winner is a 3D-printed pod made of biodegradable materials

May 17, 2019 by  
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Multi-planetary architectural firm  AI Space Factory has been awarded first place in the NASA Centennial Challenge with its innovative 3D-printed design , MARSHA. The 15-foot-tall, pod-like design was digitally printed using a base of biodegradable and recyclable basalt composite derived from natural materials found on Mars. Not only does the concept envision a sustainable and resilient design that could meet all the demands of a Mars mission, but the interior living space would be modern and bright, complete with indoor gardens. The New York-based company managed to beat out 60 challengers that submitted designs for NASA’s Centennial Challenge, which looks for sustainable housing concepts for deep space exploration, including Mars . The MARSHA habitat was designed specifically with the desolate Martian landscape in mind, but it could be potentially viable for any environment. Related: Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency The prototype was built out of an innovative mixture of basalt fiber extracted from Marian rock and renewable, plant-based bioplastic, with three robotically placed windows. The materials used in the construction not only stood up to NASA’s pressure, smoke and impact testing, but the structure was actually found to be stronger and more durable than its concrete competitors. In contrast to most designs created for Mars, MARSHA is a vertical shape comprised of various levels. The interior spaces are designated by floor, with everything needed to stay indoors for extended periods of time if necessary. Living and working spaces would feature a “human-centric” design that would see modern yet comfortable spaces lit by diffused light. There would also be ample space for indoor gardens . CEO and founder of AI SpaceFactory David Malott explained that the inspiration behind MARSHA was to design a resilient structure that would be sustainable for years to come. “We developed these technologies for space, but they have the potential to transform the way we build on Earth,” Malott said. “By using natural, biodegradable materials grown from crops, we could eliminate the building industry’s massive waste of unrecyclable concrete and restore our planet.” + AI Space Factory Via Archdaily Images via AI Space Factory

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NASA Mars Habitat Challenge winner is a 3D-printed pod made of biodegradable materials

SOM unveils designs for first-ever human settlement on the moon

April 17, 2019 by  
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Just a few months ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) released designs for the first full-time human habitat on the lunar surface. Created in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the conceptual settlement — dubbed the “Moon Village” — outlines ways humans could live in an otherwise uninhabitable setting through self-sufficient means. Envisioned with a series of inflatable living modules, the Moon Village would not only harness resources for sustaining life and industrial activities, but would also be able to conduct research for sustaining life on terrestrial planets other than Earth. Because the Moon Village would harness sunlight for energy , the rim of Shackleton Crater near the South Pole has been selected as the project site, as it receives near continuous daylight throughout the lunar year. In situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments would generate food and other life-sustaining elements, such as breathable air, which would be created from water extracted from the crater’s water-ice deposits near the South Pole. “The project presents a completely new challenge for the field of architectural design,” said SOM design partner Colin Koop. “The Moon Village must be able to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting. We have to consider problems that no one would think about on Earth , like radiation protection, pressure differentials and how to provide breathable air.” Related: Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency The settlement would comprise clusters of inflatable pressurized modules that could easily expand to accommodate future growth and programmatic needs. Designed for self sufficiency, each three- to four-story modular unit would not only include living quarters and workspaces, but also environmental control and life support systems within a regolith-based protective shell resistant to extreme temperatures, projectiles, regolith dust and solar radiation. The settlement would allow mankind to conduct a more thorough exploration of the moon for research and development purposes and help pave the way to potential human settlements on Mars and beyond. + SOM Images via SOM

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SOM unveils designs for first-ever human settlement on the moon

Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air

April 17, 2019 by  
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A new study published in Nature Communications reveals alarming amounts of microplastic particles in the air, even in the most remote, mountainous areas. News about microplastics throughout the ocean, soil and every marine mammal studied has been widely documented and publicized in recent years. ‘Microplastic’ was even called the “2018 word of the year” for its number of mentions by the news media. However, very few studies have researched the abundance of microplastics specifically in the air we breathe. In addition to the recently published research, two previous studies analyzed airborne microplastics in France and China. Those analyses from 2016 and 2017 revealed a steady rainfall of microplastics in the air — findings that are unfortunately further confirmed by the results of this most recent study. Related: Microplastics have made their way into human poop The authors counted 365 plastic particles falling per square meter, every day, with comparable results from Paris to isolated areas of the Pyrenees mountains. The researchers concluded that the amount of microplastics is correlated with the strength of the wind, but not necessarily with proximity to major urban areas or even villages. The fact that plastic particles are found so far from urban areas and direct sources of pollution indicates that the world’s plastic crisis is not a localized issue, but a global problem that affects everyone, regardless of their location or sustainable habits. The new findings are a major public health concern. The vast majority of the plastic particles identified were polystyrene and polyethylene — toxic materials often used in single-use packaging and plastic bags. Microplastics have also been found in human lung tissue, but scientists are still unsure of exactly what impacts this could have on long-term human health. “When you get down to respiratory size particles, we don’t know what those do,” research team member Deonie Allen told The Guardian . “That is a really big unknown.” + Nature Communications Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air

Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency

October 10, 2018 by  
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International practice OPEN Architecture has teamed up with Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi to design MARS Case, a futuristic proposal for Martian living that takes inspiration from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden . Designed for easy transportation, the lightweight and compact housing prototype was unveiled to the public for the first time outside the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing as part of China House Vision, a multidisciplinary and experimental platform for ideas about the future of housing. The tiny home combines the principles of zero waste and self-sufficiency in a rejection of modern consumer excess. When asked to explore new possibilities for the future of housing, OPEN Architecture decided to push the envelope and begin its project with a dystopian premise that envisions humanity forced to settle on Mars . To design a home fit for human habitation on the planet, the architects designed a tiny home that is built on the idea of recycling. “There, we have no choice but to reduce the excessive consumption of four former lifestyles and carry only minimal essentials,” the firm said. “ Recycling will be the only way we survive. As we find new appreciation in every drop of water, every bite of food and every breath of air, will we at last discover the freedom of truly simple living? Is this what we should define as the idea house of the future?” Related: This off-grid, lunar lander-inspired tiny home is out of this world Measuring 2.4 meters by 2.4 meters by 2 meters, this “ideal” MARS Case house relies heavily on green technology, namely with the integration of domestic appliances in Xiaomi’s current product lines that can be controlled remotely via smartphone. The heat and condensation generated by the electronic devices would be harnessed, filtered and recycled to create an “integrated ecosystem.” + OPEN Architecture Via ArchDaily Images by WU Qingshan and Xiaomi

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Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency

NASA plans to send a helicopter to Mars

May 14, 2018 by  
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A small, autonomous helicopter could soon soar above the rusty rocks of Mars . Dubbed the Mars Helicopter, the rotorcraft is hitching a ride to the Red Planet as part of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission. The BBC said this could be the first test of “heavier-than-air aircraft on another planet.” “After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world,” NASA’s Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said . The technology demonstration has been many years in the making; it started in 2013 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The Mars Helicopter weighs just under four pounds, with a fuselage about as big as a softball. It has twin, counter-rotating blades that will slice the air at nearly 3,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), which, according to NASA , is “about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth.” Related: NASA unveils plan to make oxygen on Mars Solar cells will help the Mars Helicopter charge its lithium-ion batteries , and it’s equipped with a heating mechanism to survive frigid Martian nights. NASA is planning as many as five flights over a 30-day test campaign. The first flight could see the Mars Helicopter fly up to 10 feet and hover there for around 30 seconds. As it flies farther and longer in following tests, it could travel “up to a few hundred meters” and soar for around 90 seconds. JPL Mars Helicopter project manager Mimi Aung said in NASA’s statement, “The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up. To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and powerful as it can possibly be.” NASA describes the Mars Helicopter as a high-risk, high-reward project. The agency said in their statement if the technology demonstration doesn’t work, the Mars 2020 mission won’t be impacted — but if it does, “helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground level.” + NASA Via the BBC Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech

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NASA plans to send a helicopter to Mars

Elon Musk releases historic video of Starman cruising the stars in a Tesla Roadster

February 7, 2018 by  
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In what may be the greatest car commercial of all time, SpaceX has released a video portraying the journey of the mannequin Starman and Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster riding the Falcon Heavy rocket through space. SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket currently in use, on February 6, 2018 from Cape Canaveral as hundreds of thousands of people gathered from across the world to witness a part of history. The Roadster, which is attached to the rocket’s upper stage, will now be subjected to intense radiation in the Van Allen belt zone beyond Earth’s atmosphere before being launched into an elliptical orbit of Mars . As majestic as he is now, Starman was very nearly trapped on Earth as launch day conditions forced hours-long delays. Even after the rocket ignited on the planetary surface, those involved were apprehensive. “If it goes, don’t clap,” Jeff Lucas, a NASA communications staffer, told the launch audience, according to the Guardian . “Don’t clap until you see those orange flames clearing the tower.” When it became clear that the rocket had launched successfully, David Bowie’s Life on Mars began to play at the SpaceX launch center. Related: SpaceX to launch reused rocket in a historic first for NASA While some critics have questioned the value of hitching a car to the world’s most powerful rocket , the now-iconic images speak for themselves. The fact that the Falcon Heavy was strong enough to allow for the extra weight of a car, simply for the fun of it, is further demonstration of the rocket’s power. “If we are successful, it’s game over for other operators of heavy-lift rockets,” said Musk prior to launch, according to the Guardian . Though the game is still far from over, Starman is a hero, not just for one day , but for the foreseeable future. Oh man, I wonder if he’ll ever know… Via The Guardian Images via SpaceX

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Elon Musk releases historic video of Starman cruising the stars in a Tesla Roadster

NASA debuts KRUSTY nuclear reactor for future Mars residents

January 19, 2018 by  
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Researchers at NASA , Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Department of Energy announced they have successfully tested a small nuclear reactor that may someday provide power to human habitats on Mars and beyond. Called Kilopower, or KRUSTY (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology), the reactor comes in several versions to meet certain power needs, from 1 kilowatt (enough to power a small kitchen appliance) to 10 kilowatts, four or five of which would be required to provide power for a habitat on Mars. “Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, during a press conference on Thursday . Kilopower could support manned missions to Mars in several ways. “We would need power on Mars for two primary reasons,” said Patrick McClure, Project Lead for Reactor Development at Los Alamos, in the video above . “The first is that astronauts need power for their habitat, so that they can make oxygen , purify water, but prior to their arrival, we need to make liquid oxygen and propellant so that they can get off the Martian surface.” Kilopower provides a fairly straightforward solution, requiring a minimal number of parts and thus lightweight, for the power needs of any planet-bound mission. Related: MIT’s winning solar-powered dome tree habitats for Mars mimic earthly forests The system works by incorporating steam-pipe technology, in which a sealed tube in a heat pipe circulates fluid throughout the reactor while generating heat . The heated fluid then travels to a Stirling engine, where it pressurizes gas to power a piston connected to a motor that generates electricity . Combining these parts makes for a reliable, simple device for providing power for all kinds of space missions. As for next steps, the research team intends to conduct a full-power test of their device in March. If all goes well, the sky may well be the limit for this compact powerhouse. Via Engadget and Space.com Images via NASA (1)

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MIT’s winning solar-powered dome tree habitats for Mars mimic earthly forests

November 28, 2017 by  
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If humans start constructing cities on Mars , we have an opportunity to build sustainably from the start. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team designed an environmentally friendly city for the red planet that mimics a forest , with solar-powered dome tree habitats connected with roots, or tunnels. Their vision, called Redwood Forest, recently won first place in the Mars City Design competition’s architecture category. As many as 50 people can reside in each one of Redwood Forest’s domes, which offer open space with plants and water – harvested from Mars’ northern plains – atop roots with access to private spaces and other domes. The roots also protect colonizers from cosmic radiation, extreme thermal changes, or micrometeorite impacts. Related: Stefano Boeri Architects envisions a Vertical Forest City on Mars The 10,000-person city will “physically and functionally mimic a forest,” according to MIT postdoctoral researcher and team co-lead Valentina Sumini, and will draw on local resources like ice, regolith, and water . MIT doctoral student George Lordos said, “Every tree habitat in Redwood Forest will collect energy from the sun and use it to process and transport the water throughout the tree, and every tree is designed as a water-rich environment. Water fills the soft cells inside the dome providing protection from radiation, helps manage heat loads, and supplies hydroponic farms for growing fish and greens.” Solar panels will generate energy to split stored water to produce oxygen and rocket fuel, Lordos said. Solar power will also help charge hydrogen fuel cells , “necessary to power long-range vehicles as well as provide backup energy storage in case of dust storms.” These ideas wouldn’t only work on the red planet. The MIT team says many of their design features could be applied to Earth. Underground multi-level networks could ease traffic above by offering an alternative route for electric cars. Hydroponic gardens underneath cities could cultivate fresh produce with lower transportation and land costs. And their tree habitat design, MIT said, “could create living and working spaces in harsh environments, such as high latitudes, deserts, and the sea floor.” + Mars City Design Via MIT News Images via Valentina Sumini/MIT

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MIT’s winning solar-powered dome tree habitats for Mars mimic earthly forests

‘Galapagos of North America’ – Mexico creates massive marine reserve

November 28, 2017 by  
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In a huge win for the environment, Mexico’s government just announced the creation of a massive marine reserve in an area known as the ‘Galapagos of North America.’ Aimed at protecting and preserving the precious environment around the Revillagigedo Archipelago near Baja California, the Illinois-sized reserve will be the largest of its kind for the continent. The 57,143-square-mile reserve will go a long way towards protecting the humpbacks, migratory birds, rays, turtles, endangered fish and coral reefs that call the area home. With the designation, all hotel construction, fishing, and mining are banned. The reserve sits 242 miles south-west of the Baja California peninsula and contains four volcanic islands and a submerged volcanic mountain range. Related: We created enough marine reserves last year to cover Texas and Alaska combined President Enrique Pena Nieto made the announcement on Friday, pushing back against significant opposition from the commercial fishing industry, saying that Mexico is reaffirming its “commitment to the preservation of the heritage of Mexico and the world”. The area will be policed by the Mexican Navy, a move that helps to silence critics that say marine reserves aren’t adequately patrolled. It’s worth noting that while Mexico is making a commitment to protecting priceless places, Trump is considering shrinking the Rose Atoll and the Pacific Remote Islands, two national monuments that could be opened to fishing. Con el Decreto del Parque Nacional Revillagigedo, el @gobmx reafirma su compromiso con la conservación del patrimonio de @Mexico y el mundo. pic.twitter.com/RNfTruK6XM — Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) November 25, 2017 Via The Guardian Lead image via Deposit Photos , image via Wikimedia

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Video: NASA tests its supersonic parachute for the first time

November 20, 2017 by  
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NASA has performed the first test of its supersonic parachute as part of its Mars 2020 mission. This essential component will allow the Mars-bound spacecraft to slow down as its enters the planet’s atmosphere whilst traveling at speeds of over 12,000 MPH. “It is quite a ride,” said Ian Clark, the test’s technical lead from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The imagery of our first parachute inflation is almost as breathtaking to behold as it is scientifically significant. For the first time, we get to see what it would look like to be in a spacecraft hurtling towards the Red Planet , unfurling its parachute.” Take a look at the video after the jump. The first test of this parachute was conducted with the Black Brant IX sounding rocket, which launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on October 4, 2017. After the rocket reached 26 miles in altitude and a speed 1.8 times that of sound, its parachute was deployed successfully. The rocket landed off the coast of Virginia shortly after. “Everything went according to plan or better than planned,” said Clark. “We not only proved that we could get our payload to the correct altitude and velocity conditions to best mimic a parachute deployment in the Martian atmosphere, but as an added bonus, we got to see our parachute in action as well.” Related: The world’s first space nation is now officially in orbit The Mars 2020 mission aims to search for signs of life on Mars by investigating evidence on location through the use of a remote rover and by gathering drilled rock samples to be studied upon their return to Earth. As indicated by its name, the mission aims to launch in 2020 and will require new technology , such as the supersonic parachute, to complete the ambitious undertaking. Although this marked the first parachute test for the Mars 2020 mission, the parachute itself has been used before for Mars exploration. In 2012, a parachute with the same design was used to land NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory on the planet itself. Future tests will incorporate a strengthened parachute, which may be used in the Mars 2020 mission. Via NASA / NBC News Images via NASA

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Video: NASA tests its supersonic parachute for the first time

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