Students have created prototypes of space habitation systems for astronauts on the “Journey to Mars.” The prototypes were built by the university teams of NASA’s eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge series and are designed to make deep space living healthier, more efficient and more comfortable.
This year, the student-built space habitation systems included creative approaches to space-based plant growth, astronaut fitness, vehicle integration and air purification, NASA said. The student team proposals were selected by NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation based on their potential contributions and enhancements to NASA’s ongoing deep-space habitation capability development.
“Engaging academia allows NASA to take advantage of innovative approaches and insights from university teams in concert with NASA expertise,” Tracy Gill from the Research and Technology Management Office at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida who leads X-Hab, said in a statement. Gill is providing guidance and mentorship to the student teams as they mature their concepts and complete the design, testing, evaluation processes over the academic year.
“The students are learning genuine hardware and systems engineering development processes, gaining valuable experience that we hope will carry over into their professional careers,” Gill added.
Eight student teams were selected for the challenge and each was given a combined total of $117,000 for their concept development work completed over the 2015-2016 academic year.
The teams include students from the University of Colorado (Boulder), who designed the LabOasis; Oklahoma State University with their zero-gravity exercise system; Pratt Institute in New York, which came up with a Mars transit habitat; Utah State University, who designed a plant chamber called EDEN; Ohio State University with their vegetation system; University of Maryland, who created an inflatable airlock system; University of Puerto Rico, with their low-power space metal manufacturing; and University of South Alabama, who created a device that measures the diffusion rates of carbon dioxide.
Over the seven years of X-Hab challenges, NASA has been able to incorporate student concepts ranging from waste handling, recycling and atmosphere scrubbing. Student teams were also able to create advanced fabrication concepts and design factors that influence human psychological and physiological conditions, NASA said.
“We already are working with industry and international partners to explore options for deep space habitation,” Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division sponsoring X-Hab, said in the same statement. “We are committed to harnessing the potential of these young minds, and in fact, student engagement permeates many of our capability development efforts for missions in deep space.”