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‘Becoming a two-planet species’

NASA has named five finalists in its challenge to find power solutions for humans travelling to Mars.

Its 2018 Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, delivered in collaboration with the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), asked for innovative solar-power systems that could enable people to access energy on the planet.

The five concepts include Princeton University’s origami-inspired solar array design’ and Norwich University’s ‘Norwich Inflatable Mars Solar Array (NIMSA)’ – which would assemble using CO2 on Mars.

“Harvesting the sun’s power for life, exploration and work on Mars is a critical hurdle in our journey to becoming a two-planet species. Engaging and challenging the next generation of bright minds to tackle this important technology gap moves us closer and closer to this goal. The excitement and enthusiasm the students bring to the opportunity is infectious and inspiring, and we are eager to see their final innovative engineering designs in March,” said Shelley Spears, director of education and outreach at the NIA.

And earlier this week Japanese startup, ispace, attracted US$90.2 million in Series A funding to advance its plans to facilitate human inhabitation on the moon.

The early stage company believes 1000 people will be living on the moon by 2040, with 10,000 visiting annually. And it wants to provide logistics services to a range of commercial customers.

Takeshi Hakamada, Founder & CEO of ispace, said: “With this funding, ispace will begin the development of lunar lander to establish a flexible and regular lunar transportation system, and lead the exploration and development of lunar surface through micro-robotic systems.”

The lunar lander will be able to carry payloads of around 30kg; and ispace aims to carry out two missions by the end of the decade to test its technology.

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