A team of students from Georgia Tech have taken first place in a recent NASA and National Institute of Aerospace contest that asked competitors to solve a variety of real-life space exploration challenges.
Overall, sixteen teams competed in the 2015 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) Competition. This year NASA asked its participants to create a mission that would bring together new technology and innovative approaches in order to allow astronauts to become less dependent on materials and resources brought from Earth. Research and designs were presented to the judges, who took three full days to determine the winner.
“Some of the teams had ideas that NASA might be able to use as we venture out beyond low-Earth orbit,” said Pat Troutman, Human Exploration Strategic Analysis lead at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. “The judges and I were impressed by the students’ engineering skills and innovative thinking.”
Top honors went to a team of students from the University of Maryland, College Park. The team created plans that would use the moon as a fueling stop on the way to Mars. The fuel would be created using lunar surface materials.
Meanwhile, the team from Georgia Institute of Technology placed first in the graduate division. Teams focused their missions on one of four themes that would allow astronauts to become less dependent on resources brought into space from Earth, including using materials on Mars, using materials on the moon, a Mars moon prospector and large-scale Mars entry, descent and landing, writes Carla Caldwell for The Atlanta Business Chronicle.
According to NASA, missions to Mars ask astronauts to travel long distances for extended periods of time, living and working far away from Earth without the luxury of readily available resupply shipments. This makes understanding how to best utilize resources found on both Mars and the moon to be of the utmost importance. Determining the usability of the resources will ensure that human exploration may continue.
Through their participation in the event, sponsored by NASA’s Advanced Space Exploration Division (AES) at NASA Headquarters and the Space Mission Analysis Branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center, student teams gain real-world experience with NASA’s current human space exploration mission design planning, which could influence future NASA missions.
A separate contest offered participants the opportunity to create a digital 3-D model of a space tool with the potential to be created by a Zero-G 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station to be used by astronauts while in space.