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NASA Invites College Students To Help People Get to Mars

Even as NASA is culling through volunteers willing to sign on to head to Mars, a trip that could be one-way, it is also hoping to woo college students to help it design critical systems for that same journey and other space travel. The space agency recently opened up its Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge 2016 to teams that want to vie for the chance to design, research and develop Mars-related habitats.

NASA will benefit by sponsoring the development of innovative concepts and technologies from universities. The winning university teams will each get awards of $10,000 to $20,000 to help them create their products.
Credit: University of Maryland interior view of lower level of lunar habitat mockup designed for 2013-2014 X-Hab challenge.

Previous X-Hab projects have included a robotic plant growth system, an air revitalization system, and a "vertically oriented habitat" mockup. The latest list of potential projects includes the need for "deep space mission food storage," an "inflatable/deployable airlock structure" and an "oxygen-based clothing sanitation system," to allow astronauts to launder clothing in space. All of these and other projects are described in the X-Hab solicitation, which also lays out the schedule for the competition and other stipulations of the process.

Student teams have until April 30 to apply for the challenge. A preliminary design review will take place in November this year; project completion is to be done by May 11, 2016. All projects will be evaluated by engineers and scientists in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, the organization that manages the agency's human space operations in low-Earth orbit and beyond.

The grants are issued through the National Space Grant Foundation.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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