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NASA looks to a new generation of innovation

Sharon Gaudin | April 13, 2011
NASA officials expect that 'game-changing technologies' will be developed by engineers working on creating a new generation spacecraft.

"As NASA continues to investigate new technologies, there will be a lot of unexpected innovation," he said. "We'll be building on not just 30 years of the shuttle, but 50 years of NASA. We expect a lot more innovation."

The program specialist said he expects to see NASA-based advancements used to improve energy efficiency and energy creation.

"You can't take all the energy you need into space with you, so we'll have to create new energies," Lockney said.

"On the longer space missions that are being considered, astronauts will need to live in an environment that is as close to self-sustaining as possible. They'll need to recycle their own oxygen and their own water. They'll need a lightweight, renewable energy resource. You can't run a power cord up into space for a couple of months," he added.

The NASA engineers working on next generation projects are likely to be extremely focused on robotics .

The space agency has talked of sending robots to build human outposts on, say, the moon or Mars before astronauts arrive for extended stays.

Lockney noted that he expects to see new technology that will make robots smart and capable enough to do grueling, intricate work while the nearest controlling human is on another planet.

In addition, he said, "There will be new and lighter materials. We'll have advances as we go farther and father into space. We'll have greater understanding of bone and muscle loss, which could help us study aging.

"What I'm really looking forward to most," he added, "are the new technologies we don't even know we need yet."


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