NASA Funds Research into Using Fungi to Grow Off-planet Structures

Credit: Lynn Rothschild

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts 2021 Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Lynn Rothschild
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, Calif.

A turtle carries its own habitat. While reliable, it costs energy in transporting mass. NASA makes the same trade-off when it transports habitats and other structures needed for human and other applications on lunar and planetary surfaces “on the back” of its missions. During Phase 1, we identified a novel biology-based solution to in situ production of usable components for space exploration: using fungal mycelial composites to grow structures off-planet, from habitats to furniture.

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NASA Selects Innovative, Early-Stage Tech Concepts for Continued Study

Notional view of LCRT on the far-side of the Moon. (Credits: Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA encourages researchers to develop and study unexpected approaches for traveling through, understanding, and exploring space. To further these goals, the agency has selected seven studies for additional funding – totaling $5 million – from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The researchers previously received at least one NIAC award related to their proposals.

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NASA’s BioSentinel Team Prepares CubeSat For Deep Space Flight

Austin Bowie inspects BioSentinel’s solar array. (Credits: NASA/Dominic Hart)

by Gianine Figliozzi
NASA’s Ames Research Center

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — BioSentinel gets a step closer to flight. Having completed assembly and a battery of tests, the BioSentinel team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley is in the final stretch of preparations to ship the spacecraft to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch.

BioSentinel’s deep space flight will go past the Moon and into an orbit around the Sun. It’s one of 13 CubeSats that will launch aboard Artemis I, the first flight of the Artemis program’s Space Launch System. Above, inside an anechoic chamber at Ames, quality assurance engineer Austin Bowie inspects BioSentinel’s solar array after completion of a test to determine the effects of electromagnetic spacecraft emissions on spacecraft systems.

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Sensors Collect Crucial Data on Mars Landings with Arrival of Perseverance

The MEDLI2 hardware is visible on the Mars 2020 heat shield as the heat shield falls toward the surface of Mars. The critical MEDLI2 electronics, two of the seven heat shield pressure transducers; these measure the stagnation pressure during the hypersonic and supersonic phases of flight, and one of the 11 heat shield temperature locations can be seen. The copper-colored harness snaking around the heat shield is also evident. The circuitous path of the harness was to avoid the rover wheels and other items on the bottom of the rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — “Tango delta. Touchdown confirmed. Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life.” For more than six years, the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) team waited to hear these words.

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New Space Tech Research Institutes to Advance Electric Propulsion, Entry Systems

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Technology drives exploration, and as NASA eyes deep-space human exploration, technology is at the forefront of its plans. Preparing for these missions requires technology development within the agency and research by external experts in various fields.

As part of this effort, NASA will establish two new university-led Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs), which will join four already active institutes. The new STRIs will bring together researchers from different disciplines and organizations to tackle challenges associated with electric propulsion ground testing and atmospheric entry systems modeling. The new STRIs aim to advance these game-changing technologies for exploring the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

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NASA Invests More than $45 Million in Small Business Projects

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Small businesses are vital to NASA’s mission, helping expand humanity’s presence in space and improve life on Earth. NASA has selected 365 U.S. small business proposals for initial funding from the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, a total investment of more than $45 million.

“At NASA, we recognize that small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “This year, to get funds into the hands of small businesses sooner, we accelerated the release of the 2021 SBIR/STTR Phase I solicitation by two months. We hope the expedited funding helps provide a near-term boost for future success.”

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Picking up the PACE: Accelerating Development of Deep Space Technologies

Raven Aerostar’s high-altitude balloon is inflated the morning of its March 12, 2021 flight to test NASA’s V-R3x technology in Baltic, SD – an effort made possible by the Agency’s new PACE initiative. (Credits: Raven Aerostar)

By Elizabeth DiVito
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

A spacecraft is the sum of many parts – propulsion systems, radiation protection, communications systems, to name a few – and every mission has different technological needs and challenges. Before a technology innovation makes its way into deep space, however, its effectiveness can be tested a little closer to Earth through suborbital and orbital flights. These flight tests expose a technology to the challenging characteristics of spaceflight that ground testing cannot simulate, such as powerful forces of acceleration and the absence of gravity. While it offers critical benefits, this journey through several iterations of collecting flight data and fine-tuning a technology can sometimes take years and often stretches a research team’s bottom line.

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Innovative Propulsion System Gets Ready to Help Study Moon Orbit for Artemis

CAPSTONE’s propulsion system undergoes environmental testing. Environmental testing ensures that spacecraft systems can operate after being launched into space and in the space environment. (Credits: Stellar Exploration Inc.)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, CubeSat will launch to a never-before-used cislunar orbit near the Moon.

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NASA, Blue Origin Partner to Bring Lunar Gravity Conditions Closer to Earth

New Shepard (NS-14) lifts off from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas. (Credits: Blue Origin)

By Danielle McCulloch and Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

EDWARDS, Calif. — At one-sixth that of Earth, the unique gravity of the lunar surface is one of the many variable conditions that technologies bound for the Moon will need to perform well in. NASA will soon have more options for testing those innovations in lunar gravity thanks to a collaboration with Blue Origin to bring new testing capabilities to the company’s New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket system.

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Comet Catalina Suggests Comets Delivered Carbon to Rocky Planets

Illustration of a comet from the Oort Cloud as it passes through the inner solar system with dust and gas evaporating into its tail. SOFIA’s observations of Comet Catalina reveal that it’s carbon-rich, suggesting that comets delivered carbon to the terrestrial planets like Earth and Mars as they formed in the early solar system. (Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — In early 2016, an icy visitor from the edge of our solar system hurtled past Earth. It briefly became visible to stargazers as Comet Catalina before it slingshot past the Sun to disappear forevermore out of the solar system.

Among the many observatories that captured a view of this comet, which appeared near the Big Dipper, was the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, NASA’s telescope on an airplane. Using one of its unique infrared instruments, SOFIA was able to pick out a familiar fingerprint within the dusty glow of the comet’s tail – carbon.

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Tricky Terrain: Helping to Assure a Safe Rover Landing

Mars 2020’s Perseverance rover is equipped with a lander vision system based on terrain-relative navigation, an advanced method of autonomously comparing real-time images to preloaded maps that determine the rover’s position relative to hazards in the landing area. Divert guidance algorithms and software can then direct the rover around those obstacles if needed. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

How two new technologies will help Perseverance, NASA’s most sophisticated rover yet, touch down onto the surface of Mars this month.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After a nearly seven-month journey to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover is slated to land at the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater Feb. 18, 2021, a rugged expanse chosen for its scientific research and sample collection possibilities.

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An Overview of NASA’s Technology Educational Satellites

NASA’s Technology Educational Satellite 8, or TechEdSat-8, deploying from the International Space Station Jan. 31, 2019. (Credits: NASA)

NASA’s TechEdSat series of technology demonstrations aims to bring small payloads back to Earth or to the surface of Mars – while pushing the state of the art in a variety of CubeSat technologies and experiments.

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — TechEdSat is a series of collaborative projects and missions that pairs college and university students with NASA researchers to evaluate new technologies for use in small satellites, or CubeSats. Students do the hands-on work – designing, building, and testing CubeSat spacecraft systems and analyzing the results – for each flight mission, under mentorship of engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

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NASA CubeSat to Demonstrate Water-Fueled Moves in Space

Illustration of Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator-1 spacecraft, demonstrating a water-based propulsion system in low-Earth orbit. (Credits: NASA)

Gianine Figliozzi
NASA’s Ames Research Center

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — A NASA CubeSat will launch into low-Earth orbit to demonstrate a new type of propulsion system. Carrying a pint of liquid water as fuel, the system will split the water into hydrogen and oxygen in space and burn them in a tiny rocket engine for thrust.

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NASA’s Costly Toxic Legacy: Space Agency Faces at Least $1.9 Billion in Environmental Liabilities

Santa Susana Field Laboratory in California.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA faces at least $1.9 billion in environmental clean up and restoration costs at its far-flung network of centers, an amount that has increased $724 million, or 61 percent, since 2014, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

While five of 14 centers where chemical contamination exists have decreased their cleanup liability, other centers such as Kennedy Space Center, Ames Research Center and the White Sands Test Facilities have seen increased costs from 2014 to 2019.

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Senior NASA Scientist Pleads Guilty To Making False Statements Related To Chinese Thousand Talents Program Participation And Professorship

NEW YORK (Department of Justice PR) — Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (“USAO”), William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Mark J. Zielinski, Special Agent in Charge of the Eastern Field Office, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Office of Inspector General (“NASA OIG”), announced that MEYYA MEYYAPPAN, a senior NASA scientist, pled guilty today to making false statements to the FBI, NASA OIG, and the USAO.  MEYYAPPAN pled guilty in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Meyya Meyyappan held a trusted position at NASA, with access to valuable intellectual property.  In violation of the terms of his employment and relevant laws and regulations, Meyyappan failed to disclose participation in a Chinese government recruitment program, and subsequently lied about it to NASA investigators, FBI agents, and our Office.  Now, having admitted his crime, Meyyappan awaits sentencing.”

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