Artist's concept image of the Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) Crew Cabin module on a near-Earth asteroid mission. Image credit: NASA
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NASA's Desert RATS – or Research and Technology Studies – will make their 14th trip to the desert this fall from August 27 through September 12 for another round of analog testing.
Desert RATS field tests have been going on for more than a decade now, with ever-increasing fidelity. This year the team – consisting of engineers, astronauts, scientists, and technicians from across NASA and throughout industry and academia – will conduct integrated mission simulations in the Arizona desert near Black Point Lava Flow to evaluate different conditions that will enable multiple destinations for future human exploration including high earth orbit, Lagrange points, the Moon, near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), Mars moons, and ultimately the surface of Mars.
The purpose of the Desert RATS 2011 field test is to provide quantitative and qualitative data to help answer key architectural questions and thereby help inform the development of NASA's Capability Driven Framework.
The Desert RATS team members conduct simulated human and robotic space exploration test activities in extreme environments on Earth to investigate and develop realistic technical and mission-driven operations. These field tests provide the opportunity to identify and establish realistic technical requirements applicable for future planetary exploration, validate mission operational scenarios & techniques, and to test experimental hardware & software.
Some of the elements that will be tested at Desert RATS this year are prototypes of the transportation elements needed to explore a near-Earth asteroid:
Desert RATS provides an exciting environment for students, educators, and the public to learn and witness how NASA utilizes mission simulations to evaluate the most efficient exploration approaches to achieve technological and scientific goals.
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