NASA Challenge Invites Students To Help Design Journey To Mars Systems

The University of Wisconsin-Madison team won the 2011 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge with their X-hab loft model, seen here being moved into the Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU) at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Image Credit: NASA

The University of Wisconsin-Madison team won the 2011 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge with their X-hab loft model, seen here being moved into the Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Image Credit: NASA

March 12, 2015 – College students have the opportunity to be at the forefront of innovation for NASA’s journey to Mars by designing systems for future space habitats and exploration systems through the agency’s Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge.

The challenge is designed to engage students directly in the design, research and development of functional components of future habitats. As NASA develops missions to send astronauts to destinations far into the solar system, such as an asteroid and Mars, a habitat to sustain the crews pioneering deep space environments will be needed.

The challenge also will help develop strategic partnerships with universities in order to increase knowledge in critical exploration capabilities and technology risk reduction activities.

To apply for the challenge, student teams must submit their plans for designing, manufacturing, assembling and testing systems for evaluation by engineers and scientists in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, which leads and oversees the agency’s human space operations in low-Earth orbit and beyond. Applications for the challenge will be accepted through April 30.

This year’s challenge includes a broad array of topics such as power distribution systems, deployable structures, habitat architectural layout studies and food production systems. Previous projects have included a remotely-operated plant growth system and a deployable airlock structure.

The X-Hab Challenge is part of a continuing effort to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. Exposing students to engineering and design processes used in the aerospace industry will benefit both NASA and the participants.

The challenge is managed by the National Space Grant Foundation for NASA. Teams selected for the challenge will receive a monetary stipend to assist in producing functional products based on their designs.

For more information on the 2016 X Hab Challenge application process, visit:

http://www.spacegrant.org/xhab/