Do You Have Ideas for Deep Space Travel? NASA Wants to Hear from You

by Paul Scott Anderson on October 27, 2011

Artist's conception of solar sail in orbit. Credit: NASA

You’ve probably heard by now how NASA is going to focus more on deep space exploration, both manned and robotic, leaving the low-Earth orbit and suborbital realms to commercial companies, a major change. There is, however, an opportunity for public input for deep space exploration as well, thanks to a new initiative for competitive ideas from universities, students, companies and government agencies. This means that you may have a chance to forward your proposals to help solve the problems that will need to be resolved in the coming years.

NASA’s new technology offices are getting ready to spend millions of dollars, it was announced at a seminar held last Monday as part of the¬†Von Braun Memorial Symposium¬†in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA is hoping to get between $375 million and $560 million in the fiscal year 2012 budget, which would be enough for competition prizes of $1 million or more.

“We have a space technology program, and there’s some money behind it,” Marshall Chief Technologist Andrew Keys said at the seminar.

The new heavy-lift rocket being designed will initially cost $1 billion or more, and still use proven conventional technology for its first planned launch in 2017. But as those first rockets are then replaced by larger ones, technological challenges will have to be overcome for new, better boosters to be designed, for example, which will ne necessary to take human farther into deep space to places like Mars.

The solar sail is also a good example of new technology, which is much different from conventional rockets, using the pressure of photons emitted from the Sun for propulsion, a very novel idea which is now being proven to be both possible and useful.

As in other facets of business and technology, competition will be a good thing, helping to bring out the best ideas and concepts from a larger knowledge pool, allowing the space industry to move more quickly and efficiently into the solar system and beyond. We may not have Star Trek-style warp speed yet, but the future is looking bright for space exploration, a future that can be better shared by all of us.

About 

Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy and has been a long-time member of The Planetary Society. He currently writes for Universe Today and Examiner.com. His own blog The Meridiani Journal is a chronicle of planetary exploration.

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