Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How NASA Is Preparing to Put Humans in Deep Space

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How NASA Is Preparing to Put Humans in Deep Space

Article excerpt

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has its sights set far beyond the moon, toward the mysteries of deep space.

NASA announced Tuesday that as its mission objectives expand to human exploration of deep space, including planned missions to an asteroid in 2025, and Mars by 2030, it is working together with six US companies to help develop deep space habitats to support human exploration.

"NASA is increasingly embracing public-private partnerships to expand capabilities, and opportunities in space," said director of NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems (AES), Jason Crusan, in a NASA press release when the program was first announced in 2015. "Our NextSTEP partners commit their own corporate resources toward the development - making them a true partner in the spaceflight economy."

NASA announced NextSTEP in May, 2015, in a Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement. NASA later selected 12 projects to help innovate deep space solutions, including advanced propulsion, habitation, and small satellite projects.

Now, NASA has chosen six project proposals out of all the applications it received for the NextSTEP habitation project. It will be working with these six companies to innovate deep space habitation solutions in anticipation of a mission to Mars within the next few decades.

The deep space habitats will be tested in an area near the moon, a "proving ground" before the planned mission to Mars, according to NASA scientists.

Habitats will include features such as docking capabilities for spacecraft, life support systems, fire safety mechanisms, crew health capabilities, and radiation monitoring, among others, according to a NASA blog post.

Once the habitats are constructed, NASA says, it will be able to test how the many systems involved (including airlocks, docking systems, etc.) function, and how they will function in deep space.

Each of the six companies will work on a slightly different product.

One of the most recognizable names, Boeing, has already worked on systems in use at the International Space System. …

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