Two far-flung NASA concepts could quickly probe Lunar Crater for astronauts and help identify mining resources on nearby asteroids.
The projects were conducted with kind permission of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program ]which pursues theoretical ideas that could take many years to complete. Each project is in the most recent phase of development that NIAC has offered so far, Phase III, and will receive up to $ 2 million to outline the mission concept. This emerges from a declaration released on Tuesday (June 11) by NASA (19459003). ,
"This is the first year NASA has offered an NIAC Phase III opportunity, and there have been many compelling propositions," said Jason Derleth, NIAC Program Manager, in the statement. "We selected two proposals because we believe that both technologies can positively impact the industry, and we are pleased that these technology concepts can help humanity explore space in new ways."
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The first mission concept called Skylight could help NASA send people back to the moon. The government of President Donald Trump commissioned the agency to land people on the surface again by 2024 to create a roadside station for future Mars exploration.
Skylight is run by William Whittaker, a robotics professor at Carnegie. Mellon University wants to help future astronauts work on the moon. With high-resolution images up close, Skylight would create 3D models of craters. The models would show whether it is safe for a human (or a rover) to descend into the characteristics and explore them.
The system was also able to identify ice in the shade. This ability is intriguing, as budding lunar researchers claim water on the moon is a valuable resource for future human settlements and would reduce what astronauts need to carry it off the planet.
The other project is called Mini Bee and is being developed by Joel Sercel, founder and CEO of TransAstra Corp. guided. Mini Bee hopes to find a way to mine resources of asteroids that are full of water and minerals. The project would extract resources through a method called Optical Mining that would focus the sunlight on the asteroid. By doing so, the surface would wear out and any generated debris would be collected in an inflatable bag.
The team hopes to use this method to produce fuel in space, so astronauts need to carry less fuel on their missions.
The NIAC program expects to fund a Phase III study each year over the next few years, according to NASA. Each study team has two years of research time to substantiate the concept sufficiently and to pass the idea on to the industry or government for further development and implementation of the mission.