NASA wants to develop self-retreating space suits, Venus undercarriages and spider probes

light veil

ELaNa XI CubeSat LightSail, a technology demonstration mission to the citizens initiative, was launched in 2015. The development of technology "lightsail", which uses the energy of the sun to roam the space , is only one of the concepts funded by NASA at the 2019 NIAC Awards.

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Robotic landers on the surface of Venus, micro-probes inspired by spiders, a self-repairing space suit and lunar pole mining are projects that NASA recently gave green light to its development.

Although many of the projects selected by NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program appear to have been taken from the pages of the best science fiction novels (I look at you, Heinlein and Asimov), there is a chance they do it. become reality in the next decade. The NIAC program provides up to $ 500,000 in grants to develop breakthrough technologies for human space flight and cosmic exploration missions.

At the 2019 session, NIAC selected 12 projects for Phase I grants, valued at approximately $ 125,000, and six Phase II grants, valued at up to $ 500,000. Phase I studies are nine-month exploratory projects that allow researchers to further develop their ideas, while Phase II studies give them a two-year window to advance their technologies and define how they could give life to these ideas.


The floating power plants would transmit energy to the Venus lander as part of a project proposed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

The concept of Venus LG consists of a "two-vehicle architecture" that would allow a floating spacecraft to capture the energy of the Venusian atmosphere and then descend to the surface of Venus to "transmit" this energy to a lander. The idea extends the missions to the surface of Venus by providing the LG with a constant source of energy in a particularly unpleasant environment for terrestrial visitors.

Another project will see Texas A & M engineers working on a new type of space suit that they call SmartSuit. It would be designed to improve movement and dexterity, but would also include a number of soft robotics technologies, sensors, and auto-healing skin that also serves as a screen. After the hubbub on the size of NASA's spacesuit, this concept could possibly kill two space birds with a space stone.

One of the most interesting concepts is inspired by hot air balloon spiders, those who project silk into the air to catch the wind. The proposed small probes would work in the thousands, weigh about 50 milligrams and float under a loop of about 200 meters long. Releasing spider probes into the atmosphere during future planetary missions would allow researchers to have a better idea of ​​what makes them up and how they have become.

On top of that, 15 other projects are all trying to move from idea to reality, including lunar mining outposts (especially important with NASA's commitment to return to the Moon for the first time). here 2024), neutrino detectors, sails and nuclear probes for space exploration.

It's a buffet of science fiction concepts and I dine on the potential. Of course, NIAC is intended to provide the foundation for technology development and there is always a chance that our innovative Venus spider probes and landing gear do not move from an intelligent idea to a tangible reality. Some will most likely be dreams (or sci-fi stuff)!

NASA will distribute Phase III grants on June 7, which will provide an additional two years of concept development to projects with the greatest potential impact on NASA.

You can view the full list of concepts on NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory blog.

Originally published at 9:21 pm. April 10

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