Could Future Homes on the Moon and Mars Be Made of Fungi?

A researcher holding a petri dish containing mycelia – the underground threads that make up the main part of a fungus – growing in simulated martian soil, also known as martian regolith. (Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Lynn Rothschild)

by Frank Tavares
NASA’s Ames Research Center

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — Science fiction often imagines our future on Mars and other planets as run by machines, with metallic cities and flying cars rising above dunes of red sand. But the reality may be even stranger – and “greener.” Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well.

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NASA’s New Moon Rover Tested in Lunar Operations Lab

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) engineering model undergoing tests. (Credit: NASA / Bridget Caswell, Alcyon Technical Services)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — An engineering model of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is tested in the Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

About the size of a golf cart, VIPER is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s South Pole looking for water ice in the region and for the first time ever, actually sample the water ice at the same pole where the first woman and next man will land in 2024 under the Artemis program.

The large, adjustable soil bin contains lunar simulant and allows engineers to mimic the Moon’s terrain. Engineers from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the rover was designed and built, joined the Glenn team to complete the tests.

Test data will be used to evaluate the traction of the vehicle and wheels, determine the power requirements for a variety of maneuvers and compare methods of traversing steep slopes. Respirators are worn by researchers to protect against the airborne silica that is present during testing.  

VIPER is a collaboration within and beyond the agency.  NASA’s  Ames  Research Center in Silicon Valley is managing the project, leading the mission’s science, systems engineering, real-time rover surface operations and software.

The rover’s instruments are provided by Ames, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and commercial partner, Honeybee Robotics in  California.  The spacecraft, lander and launch vehicle that will deliver VIPER to the surface of the Moon will be provided through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, delivering science and technology payloads to and near the Moon.  

Founder Institute & NASA Ames Partner to Bring Silicon Valley Back to R&D Roots

New “Founder Institute Advanced Technologies Accelerator” Program Will Help Entrepreneurs Leverage NASA Technology and the Founder Institute’s Global Network to Build Companies of the Future

PALO ALTO, Calif. (Founders Institute PR) – The Founder Institute (http://fi.co), the world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator, is announcing open applications for the Founder Institute Advanced Technologies Accelerator program in Silicon Valley.

Founders who are working on Aerospace/Space, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Quantum Computing, Neuroscience, Autonomous Vehicles, Blockchain Technologies, Augmented/Virtual Reality, Genomics, Drones, Robotics and various other forms of Frontier Technologies can apply to the program for free at http://fi.co/join/spacetech.

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UP Aerospace Launch Tests New Technologies

UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft rocket. (Credits: NASA)

SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM (NASA PR) — On Nov. 22 UP Aerospace launched its SpaceLoft rocket on a flight funded by the company’s NASA Tipping Point award. The Affordable Vehicle Avionics (AVA) project from NASA’s Ames Research Center was one of several payloads onboard.

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NASA Faces Billions in Deferred Maintenance & Repairs

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Although NASA has made some progress in repairing and rebuilding its aging infrastructure, the space agency faces a deferred maintenance backlog of $2.65 billion, according to a new report by the Office of Inspector General (IG).

NASA is one of the biggest managers of property in the federal government, with 5,000 buildings and structures in 14 states. More than 83 percent of the structures are beyond their original design life, the review found.

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NASA’s Small Investments in Small Businesses Pay Big Dividends

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Sustainable Bioproducts, a previous recipient and NASA STTR funding, uses extremophile organisms from volcanic springs to create edible proteins. (Credits: Jim Peaco/National Park Service)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In 2013, a startup company had an idea for using extremophile organisms from volcanic springs to create edible proteins that would serve as an environmentally conscious alternative to meat-based proteins.

Following a handful of small investments from government agencies, including a $124,000 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract from NASA, Sustainable Bioproducts announced in early 2019 it received $33 million in venture capital financing, including backing from two of the world’s biggest food and agriculture companies.

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Google and NASA Achieve Quantum Supremacy

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Google, in partnership with NASA and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has demonstrated the ability to compute in seconds what would take even the largest and most advanced supercomputers thousands of years, achieving a milestone known as quantum supremacy.

“Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but this transformative achievement rockets us forward,” said Eugene Tu, center director at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “Our missions in the decades to come to the Moon, Mars and beyond are all fueled by innovations like this one.”

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NASA Selects Space Biology Experiments to Study Living Organisms on Russian Bion-M2 Mission

An artist’s depiction of the Van Allen Belts, showing Earth’s magnetic field lines and the trajectories of charged particles trapped by them. The twin ELFIN spacecraft are shown following their inclined polar orbit, traced in yellow. (Credits: UCLA EPSS/NASA SVS)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected nine grant proposals for space biology research experiments, the results of which will contribute to the understanding of health risks humans will experience in deep space, including exploration at the Moon through the Artemis program and future missions to Mars. Selected investigators will have an opportunity to conduct rodent experiments to be flown on a biosatellite mission, known as Bion-M2, with the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

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NASA Selects Teams to Study Our Moon, Mars’ Moons, and More


WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected eight new research teams to collaborate on research into the intersection of space science and human space exploration as part of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI).

“The discoveries these teams make will be vital to our future exploration throughout the solar system with robots and humans,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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Tunguska Revisited: 111-Year-Old Mystery Impact Inspires New, More Optimistic Asteroid Predictions

Trees flattened by the intense shock wave created in the atmosphere as the space rock exploded above Tunguska on June 30, 1908. The photograph was taken by the Soviet Academy of Science 1929 expedition led by Leonid Kulik. 500,000 acres, the size of a large metropolitan city, were flattened. Flattening trees requires an immense shock wave. #WorldAsteroidDay is held every June 30 as a global awareness campaign where people around the world come together to share knowledge about asteroids and learn how to protect our planet. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Every single day, many tons of tiny rocks – smaller than pebbles – hit the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrate. Between frequent shooting stars we wish on in the night sky and the massive extinction-level asteroids that we hope we never see, there is a middle ground of rocks sized to make it through the atmosphere and do serious damage to a limited area. Now, new research from NASA indicates that the impacts of these mid-size rocks may be less frequent than previously thought.

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — The research revealed that such relatively small but regionally devastating impacts happen on the order of millennia – not centuries, as previously thought. In addition, the new research has pushed forward our knowledge about the complex processes that determine how large rocks from space break up when entering Earth’s atmosphere.

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NASA Awards $106 Million to US Small Businesses for Technology Development

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Managing pilotless aircraft and solar panels that could help humans live on the Moon and Mars are among the technologies NASA is looking to develop with small business awards totaling $106 million. In all, NASA has selected 142 proposals from 129 U.S. small businesses from 28 states and the District of Columbia to receive Phase II contracts as part the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

“Small businesses play an important role in our science and exploration endeavors,” said Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “NASA’s diverse community of partners, including small businesses across the country, helps us achieve our mission and cultivate the U.S. economy. Their innovations will help America land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024, establish a sustainable presence on the lunar surface a few years later, and pursue exciting opportunities for going to Mars and beyond.”

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Meteoroid Strikes Eject Precious Water From Moon

Artist’s concept of the LADEE spacecraft (left) detecting water vapor from meteoroid impacts on the Moon (right). (Credits: NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab)

by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA

Researchers from NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, report that streams of meteoroids striking the Moon infuse the thin lunar atmosphere with a short-lived water vapor.

The findings will help scientists understand the history of lunar water — a potential resource for sustaining long term operations on the Moon and human exploration of deep space. Models had predicted that meteoroid impacts could release water from the Moon as a vapor, but scientists hadn’t yet observed the phenomenon.

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The Bones of the Matter: Reversing the Loss of Bone Mass in Space

Without the influence of gravity, astronauts experience bone loss and it takes research in space to figure out how to reverse that.

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Spaceflight is hard on the human body. Adapted over generations to meet the rigors of an environment with gravity, all of the normal rules about staying healthy on Earth don’t apply in zero gravity. Long-term space exploration depends on knowing how to keep humans strong and well, so NASA has been studying the consequences of short-term trips in space for years, with the International Space Station contributing significantly to the understanding of how to keep astronauts healthy.

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NASA Seeks Small Business Innovation Research for Future Missions, Commercialization

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Small businesses are at the cutting edge of research, with fresh and unexpected ideas. NASA hopes to leverage innovative small business concepts for use on Earth, at the Moon and beyond.

NASA’s Small Business and Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs seek proposals that could be integrated into NASA missions and commercial markets. The 2019 solicitation encourages U.S. small businesses and research institutions to submit ideas related to NASA’s aeronautics, human exploration, science and space technology objectives.

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