NASA is currently the world leader when it comes to the latest in space travel technology, and their many years of experience and experimentation means that they have a deeper understanding of the difficulties of space travel than most.
In line with this, NASA has offered a large reward to anyone around the world that is able to offer some real progress on some of these ideas. Without enough time and the right investments, many of these ideas could change the way we handle our voyages into the dark void surrounding our planet.
1. Fission and Fusion
Fission and fusion-powered propulsion is by no means a new concept, but making it stable enough for long-term space travel is a feat that many engineers around the world are still working on. While we’ve used nuclear power successfully for more than 50 years, there have been plenty of devastating accidents.
Accidents on earth are bad enough, but we have measures in place to ensure that the fallout is managed. In space, however, there are no such fall-backs, meaning that the propulsion system needs to be completely free from any possible faults or breakdowns, at least not on a scale that can’t be fixed by the vessel’s crew.
2. Intergalactic Pit Stops
The idea here is to build a station at some point in the solar system that can be used for stocking up on vital resources, while also providing an emergency repair base in case anything goes wrong. At the moment, NASA is looking at creating a station that could be fully self-sustaining, with the possibility of having an eco-system on board to provide life support, from oxygen to food.
While we’re still a long way from creating such a station, the potential to have a much simpler station just past the dark side of the moon is already on the books, which would give astronauts the chance to relax, recuperate, and maybe even get in a few rounds of real money bingo.
3. Mapping Space Debris
This is a project that is currently underway, and would provide future space flights with all the information they need to track, interact, and potentially even mine asteroids and other space bodies in the future.
On top of this, the fear of a possible collision of an asteroid into earth has made it a priority to begin creating planetary defences. What these defences entail is yet to be determined, but it’s becoming more and more important as we begin to map more and more dangerous asteroids.
4. 3D Printing
3D printing is by no means a new concept, but NASA and other space agencies have invested a lot of money and manpower into creating printers that are able to print food and supplies on the go.
This kind of research is especially prudent to the upcoming missions to mars, as it could mean that instead of hauling countless tons of supplies up to the red planet, astronauts and colonists could instead print out everything they need right there.