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NASA Selects Four University Teams to Develop Technologies to Enhance Moon to Mars Missions

NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation have selected four university teams to develop advanced and innovative design ideas that will help solve Moon to Mars Program challenges.

NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation have selected four university teams to develop advanced and innovative design ideas that will help solve Moon to Mars Program challenges. The selections are part of the sponsored by NASA’s Mars Campaign Office Advanced Exploration Systems Program.

The 2023-2024 M2M X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for NASA to build strategic partnerships with universities and tap into the ingenuity of the future Artemis Generation workforce. The challenge provides STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students interested in aerospace careers with hands-on development and research experience, while strengthening NASA capability for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Past student participants have gone on to careers in the aerospace industry, including at NASA.

Beginning in September, the 2023-2024 project proposals will provide solutions for overcoming barriers and advancing technology in the following areas:

Evaluation of Heat Pipes to Transfer Heat in Fixed-Beds University of South Alabama T. Grant Glover

The cooling process of an adsorbent bed is a key step to ensuring that the Temperature Swing Adsorption Compressor (TSAC) cycle is part of a balanced heating and cooling approach with the CO2 life-support system. During the TSAC process CO2 is adsorbed by a zeolite bed at low pressure, then the bed is heated to remove the CO2 but must be cooled back down for continued service. Liquid and air-cooled TSAC systems have been developed but the use of heat pipes has been more limited. The TSAC is an adsorbent-based compressor device that operates downstream of CO2 life support systems and prior to CO2 recycling via a Sabatier reactor.

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Management for the CO2 Deposition System University of Michigan Nilton Renno

The project aims to develop a comprehensive Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) management system for integration with the CO2 deposition system (CDep) on the International Space Station (ISS), eliminating a key barrier to deep-space crewed missions. The notional concept for the deposition system involves the usage of renewable catalysts for photocatalytic oxidation technology, to break down and remove VOCs from a transient airflow. The system will be integrated upstream from the cryogel tanks, providing the CDep system with a VOC-free airstream.

Intelligent Devices/Equipment/Instruments (IDEI) for Enabling Crew Health and Performance on Mars University of Michigan Nilton Renno

The final deliverable will be a functional prototype for at least two intelligent exercise devices, along with associated metrics and measurement methods to be utilized in implementing integrated system health management for crew health and performance during long-duration Mars missions. The Michigan Bioastronautics and Life Support Systems (BLiSS) team will also develop an accompanying user interface, which will be gamified with virtual reality or immersive content in order to help alleviate the mental and cognitive challenges associated with a long-duration mission to Mars.

Integrating Gamification and IDEIs to Enable Crew Health and Performance on Mars Rochester Institute of Technology Kathleen Lamkin-Kennard

A Mars mission will present both physiological and psychological challenges for crew due to the length of the mission and distance from Earth. Astronauts will need to overcome psychobiological challenges, such as stress induced depression of the immune system. Although exercise has been shown to be an effective countermeasure to these changes on extended missions, there is an inherent need to prevent a loss of compliance due to boredom or time requirements. The proposed system to be designed, fabricated, and tested is an IDEI that integrates gamification and virtual reality (VR) to enable engaging performance-based training.

Learn how to solve NASA’s toughest problems and win cash awards, internships, and more:

View last year’s X-Hab Challenge Projects here: