Balloons on Mars? UVA engineering group among finalists in NASA competition

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Gupta, an electrical engineering highbrow during a University of Virginia, and his group of students are among 5 finalists in NASA’s BIG Ideas Challenge for 2018.

BIG stands for “breakthrough, innovative and game-changing.” It is a university-level pattern foe sponsored by a Game-Changing Development Program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed by a National Institute of Aerospace.

This year’s plea is to rise concepts for a arguable appetite source that could be put in place on Mars forward of a attainment of a initial humans. The plea sought concepts for singular designs, designation and tolerable operation of a vast solar-power system.

“NASA wants ideas of how to beget appetite on Mars,” Gupta said. “They specified they wanted 40 kilowatts of power. They specified that it has to be means to fit into a rocket with singular space.”

“Team Gupta” grown vast balloons, approximately 50 meters in hole and 5 to 6 stories tall, with stretchable solar panels draped over a tip to beget electricity on a Red Planet. With their simple suspicion accepted, a group has until Mar to labour a devise for a final selection. Other competitors in a plea are teams from Norwich University, Princeton University, Texas AM University and a University of Colorado during Boulder.

“I am unequivocally tender by a series of proposals and a farrago of ideas,” pronounced Lee Mason, principal technologist for appetite and appetite storage in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “I can overtly contend that a proposals introduced new and innovative ideas for solar array wrapping that we haven’t suspicion about before.”

Nikolaos “Nikos” Sidiropoulos, highbrow and chair of UVA’s Charles L Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, also was tender with a team’s vision.

“Professor Gupta and his group have due a truly out-of–the-box idea: regulating dual gas-filled balloons with a solar sweeping wrapped around a tip aspect to concurrently maximize appetite collection and strengthen from Martian dust,” Sidiropoulos said. “This is a kind of plan that fuels a imagination, and a smashing event for a students to rivet in grand-challenge space research.”

The foe was announced in Aug and Gupta pulled together a group of 4 connoisseur students – George Wilkes of McLean; Matt Julian of Warren County, New Jersey; Elisa Pantoja of Monterrey, Mexico; and Arpan Sinha of Calcutta, India – and one undergraduate, Wade Hisiro of Pittsburgh. All of a students are electrical engineers.

“I knew these students and they all volunteered,” Gupta said. “We started brainstorming what to do with this.”

Their brainstorming had to combat with several stipulations and obstacles.

“We have to be endangered about a distance and a weight,” Pantoja pronounced “It can’t be heavy, so we came adult with something that is lightweight and we can hurl it up.”

Gupta pronounced a new era of solar cells are lightweight and stretchable and can be rolled into a tube like a piece of paper. “They are dual microns thick,” he said. “They can be rolled adult and stored within a rocket.”

They grown a suspicion of hulk balloons with stretchable solar panels on a tip of them.

“Mars’ atmosphere is mostly CO dioxide and it has cold temperatures,” Gupta said. “We need something lightweight that can be packaged simply on a rocket that does not have many space. Once on Mars, a balloon is non-stop up, filled with CO dioxide from a Martian atmosphere and afterwards a gas is exhilarated by a object and that gives a balloon a lift.”

Initially, they looked during one balloon that was about 6 stories high and a area of a football stadium. Then they scaled it behind to have dual or 3 balloons, so if something happened to one, there is backup.

Wilkes remarkable that Mars has about half of a object on Earth, “but a atmosphere is thinner, so there is reduction absorption.” Thus, while there is reduction sunlight, since of a skinny atmosphere, many of a light that reaches a world will strike a solar panels. He remarkable that NASA requires 40 kilowatts, though he thinks their intrigue can beget adult to 145 kilowatts.

The skinny atmosphere also diminishes a impact of a wind, so a balloons would not blow around much.

“Mars has a lot of dust,” Gupta said. “The dirt can amass on a solar row and revoke a conversion. NASA has a corsair on Mars and that has a solar row that has suffered from a dust. There is no good resolution for that.”

However, he believes a balloon suspicion has a intensity to residence this problem. Having a panels on a tip of a five- to six-story balloons will keep them towering above many of a Martian dust, as good as above a dirt storms that start several times a year.

Gupta pronounced he and a group have already left over their skeleton after discussions with plea decider Lee Mason and other NASA engineers, whom he pronounced were utterly supportive. As a finalist, Gupta’s group has perceived $6,000 from NASA to assist in a research; if they win a foe in March, a group will spend a summer operative with NASA engineers in Ohio enlightening a idea. The thought to Mars is designed for around 2030.

“Harvesting a sun’s appetite for life, scrutiny and work on Mars is a vicious jump in a tour to apropos a two-planet species,” pronounced Shelley Spears, executive of preparation and overdo during a NIA. “Engaging and severe a subsequent era of splendid minds to tackle this critical record opening moves us closer and closer to this goal. The fad and unrestrained a students move to a event is spreading and inspiring, and we are fervent to see their final innovative engineering designs in March.”

Gupta pronounced even if a group does not win in March, a practice itself is of good advantage to them. The suspicion has human applications, such as bringing electricity to remote areas. Gupta also pronounced a routine is a absolute believe for a students.

“This allows a students to dream and to work with a team,” he said. “It is an event for them to contest on a inhabitant basis. It is severe and gives them a event to precedence their knowledge. NASA is a illusory group and they might finish adult operative there.

“They can take what they have schooled from a textbooks and a classes and they can request it to unsentimental concerns.”

It also gives them an event to get to know another planet.

“We weren’t alive when they landed on a moon,” Wilkes said. “This is not your customary task assignment.”

Source: University of Virginia

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