It’s an exciting time for NASA. The space agency is preparing to send astronauts to Mars by 2030, a mission buoyed by recent findings which provide the strongest indication yet that water does flow intermittently on the planet’s surface.
Many challenges, however, remain between now and 2030. But NASA, through Open Innovation, believe they can achieve their goals.
Reaching Mars has always been high on NASA’s list of priorities. But headway has only been made in the last three or four years.
The space agency has made it clear that exploring Mars is a collective effort. By reaching out to scientific communities, it hopes to develop and accelerate its research. Through an Open Innovation initiative, NASA collated a range of submissions, evaluating which concepts could be embedded into the agency’s wider plans.
The results have been groundbreaking. In November 2015, NASA unveiled a new spacesuit. The prototype will allow astronauts to easily enter and exit spacecrafts, essential when collecting samples of the planet’s surface. While not currently suitable for exploration missions, the hope is that it will be in time for the first expedition to Mars.
Astronaut Health Issues
In 2013, NASA’s head of Human Health and Performance Directorate, Dr. Jeffery Davis, revealed that around 45 health problems were associated with long duration space flight. The implications of this will only be accentuated by a mission to Mars. Astronauts typically spend seven months at the International Space Station, a timeframe easily eclipsed by a mission to Mars, which, according to NASA, would take 30 months.
Dr. Davis is an advocate of Open Innovation and believes that people who have no experience in space travel can solve NASA’s toughest problems. He states: ‘It allowed us to open up our problems to the crowd, if you will, and we got some novel ideas back. Since then we’ve been building into our basic problem-solving structure.’
By engaging the masses, NASA is slowly making strides to improve the health of its health astronauts while on a mission.
The International Space Station
The International Space station (ISS) has taken a backseat amid the Mars revelations, but it is, of course, an essential piece in NASA’s exploration strategy.
One of the priorities for the ISS has been maximizing the amount of solar energy it receives. NASA has opened up the challenge to its communities, with a total prize pool of $30,000 on offer for worthy ideas. The space agency’s Glenn Research Center has been working on methods to convert solar energy to electrical power, but the suggestions it gets from its wider community should broaden perspectives.