NASA Funds Research into Food Production on Deep Space Missions

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield maintaining Biolab in Europe’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. Biolab is an experiment workstation tailored for research on biological samples such as micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, plants and small invertebrates. The unit features a centrifuge that creates simulated gravity to compare how samples react to weightlessness and artificial gravity. (Credit; NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As NASA contemplates deep space missions to the moon and Mars, the space agency faces increasing challenges in keeping its astronauts physically and mentally healthy.

One of the key elements in that challenge is fresh food. Currently, fresh produce is supplied periodically to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on resupply ships. Crew members have also grown small quantities of vegetables on board.

Resupply becomes a more difficult task on deep space missions due to distance. Thus, astronauts will need to grow more of their own food. Last week, NASA announced three Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards to advance that goal.

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Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)

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NASA Selects 12 NIAC Phase I Projects for Funding

Titan submarine
Titan submarine

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 12 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, which aims to turn science fiction into fact through pioneering technology development.

The selected proposals cover a wide range of imaginative concepts, including:

  • a submarine to explore the methane lakes of Titan;
  • using neutrinos to perform measurements for the icy moons of the outer planets; and,
  • a concept to safely capture a tumbling asteroid, space debris, and other applications.

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eSpace Seeks Incubator Candidates

BOULDER, Colo. — eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship, a non-profit business incubator and workforce development organization for aerospace start-up companies, today announced its third round call for new incubator candidates for the eSpace Incubator program.

Current participants and alumni include creators of the flying hybrid, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contestant, an Inventor of the Year, and other entrepreneurs advancing the commercialization of space technologies and supporting the development of a workforce to fuel their growth. To apply, interested parties can find the eSpace Incubator Application at http://espacecenter.org/incubator_program.php.

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eSpace Hopes to Ignite Entrepreneurial Space Ventures

CNN has an interesting piece about eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship, a new incubator that is a collaboration between the University of Colorado and SpaceDev.

In a cavernous testing facility called the “Incubator,” specialized equipment recreates the unique conditions of a journey into space — from platforms that mimic the violent shaking at liftoff to chambers that replicate space’s bitter cold and complete vacuum.

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