9–13 January 2017
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If You Set Out to Explore the Universe, Sound Technology Is a Must

Posted: 6 January 2016, 9:45 p.m. EST

Panelists: Moderator Steve Gaddis, director, Game Changing Development Program, NASA; Molly Anderson, principal technologist, Next Generation Life Support Space Technology Mission, NASA; Michelle Munk, principal technologist, Entry, Descent and Landing, NASA; Stuart Shaklan, technical group supervisor, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Matthew Simon, habitation and crew systems design lead, Human Spaceflight Architecture Team, NASA

by Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications

As planetary exploration efforts ramp up in future years, we must ensure that we have the technology to make those explorations safe and successful, a panel of experts told attendees Jan. 6 at the 2016 AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition in San Diego.

The panel, “Space Exploration Through Advancing Technologies,” brought together representatives from various NASA directorates to explain what technology is being developed and what technology still needs to be developed as various exploration efforts unfold.

From versatile robots able to perform dangerous tasks to 3-D printers that can print necessary tools and equipment, the Human Spaceflight Architecture Team at NASA is working hard to ensure that future astronauts have what they need to complete their missions, said Steve Gaddis, the director of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program.

Matthew Simon, the habitation and crew systems design lead with the Human Spaceflight Architecture Team, said chief among the necessary components for crew safety and comfort in any exploration mission is food.

“You get to the point where food is not really certified to the extent of the mission’ duration — meaning that the nutrition of the food degrades and the other aspect is that the food will taste terrible,” he said. “It’s like eating 4-year-old Doritos. Disgusting!”

Molly Anderson, principal technologist of the NextGen Life Support program at NASA, reminded the audience that the goal of future exploration missions is to become Earth-independent. Stuart Shaklan, technical group supervisor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, discussed ongoing efforts to discover exoplanets and the evolving methods that aid the ongoing search for Earth-like planets in our universe.

All panelists agreed that when sound technologies are in place, Mars will be the first stop for any exploration efforts in the near term, with missions to Europa to follow.

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