The scope of the study is to adapt the most recent advances in multi-functional
reconfigurable and adaptive structures to enable a micro-environment control that enables space
exploration in extreme environments (EE).
The technical goal is to identify the most efficient
materials, architectures, structures and means of deployment/reconfiguration, system autonomy
and energy management solutions needed to optimally project/generate a micro-environment
around space assets. This novel solution is called an energy-projecting system (EPS). For
example, compact packed thin-layer reflective structures unfolding to large areas, can reflect
solar energy, warming and illuminating assets such as exploration rovers on Mars or human
habitats on the Moon. Specifically, we are seeking solutions that revolutionize space missions
through a dramatic increase in the ability to survive extreme environments, leading to:
innovative ways to redirect solar energy into extreme environmental sites, enabling the
exploration of permanently shadowed craters and caves, and extremely hot or cold areas,
without use of radio-isotope thermal generators (RTG);
innovative types of lightweight and multifunctional structures; with multiple advantages in
packaging and deployment of space structures;
new types of robotic/autonomous systems, manufactured/printed in 2D, but morphing/ shapechanging
their 3D shapes.
The primary benefit of this study is to enable
missions that would otherwise be too technologically
challenging and/or expensive, in particular those that
would involve long periods of time without direct solar
input or RTGs, the availability of which may be
limited in the future. Studies of permanently
shadowed environments would particularly benefit, with remote deployables providing
illumination, energy and communications. Other uses can be, e.g., to serve as a sun-shield to
protect rovers from very strong sun, a thermal blanket to help them retain heat and survive a cold
night, a calibration target for instruments, etc.
This study will bring mission designers together with experts in
these technologies, resulting in a better understanding of where we can best apply these ideas in
space science, and leading toward focused development of the most promising concepts.