Posts tagged with "NASA":

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Interstellar Lab could bring a Mars-ready, closed-loop village to the Mojave Desert

A Paris-based research group aims to build Mars simulators in California’s Mojave Desert. Designed as the first "closed-loop, environment-controlled villages" on Earth (although others have certainly tried before), the Experimental Bioregenerative Station (EBios) by Interstellar Lab will serve as a hospitality and science center for astronaut training, agricultural analysis, and tourists interested in learning how to live within the confines of extreme sustainability.  Founded in 2018 by entrepreneur and investor Barbara Belvisi, Interstellar Lab’s mission is to study how humans could best live on Mars while simultaneously improving life on Earth amidst climate change. “Mars can help Earth right now,” reads the home page of their website. The firm’s seminal project, the EBios, would contain “regenerative life support technologies” like water treatment, waste management, food production, and nature preservation that would allow people to live completely off the grid as if they were in space. The site will be open as a tourist destination for part of the year. Belvisi told Venture Beat that she’s already identified four possible sites within the Mojave Desert—the driest of its kind on the continent—where the EBios village could be built. She hopes to nail down a property by February. Belvisi’s team is made of up a handful of engineers, scientists, and an architect. They’ve already created a vision for the first EBios village (a very BIG-like design concept) which would be able to support up to 100 people. Glass-clad domes housing lush greenery would connect to futuristic-looking transport systems and clustered buildings covered in a metallic sheen. So far, information on the acreage of the project has not been made public. Interstellar Lab is still in the process of raising money for the design and construction of the first EBios village, according to Venture Beat, and they are already in talks with NASA about its potential use for space-based government research. Belvisi wants to build a second EBios in Cape Canaveral, Florida, near the Kennedy Space Center. Interstellar Lab said it wants to start building the Mojave Desert-location in 2021.
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Apis Cor claims to have created the largest on-site 3D-printed building

Dubai is now home to what is claimed to be the world’s largest on-site 3D-printed building. The 31-foot-tall, two-story government agency was printed in on-site three weeks using a single printer developed by the Boston-based Apis Cor, which has previously garnered attention for their sub-$10,000 printed home and for winning NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge along with SEarch+ for their Martian housing proposal. To realize the 6,889-square-foot structure, Apis Cor moved its automobile-sized printer, which is powered by custom software, around the construction site with a crane, along with the help of three workers. Each wall was printed using a mix of locally-available common products like cement and gypsum, along with proprietary materials the company has developed. Steel rebar was added to reinforce the walls and the foundation was laid using standard construction techniques and insulation, while the roofing and windows were added by workers as well. Apis Cor noted that working unsheltered in the harsh climate required “extensive R&D,” and the team had to develop a process and mix of materials well suited to the changing conditions. (Moscow State University of Civil Construction also lent help with structural modeling.) Despite the severe and shifting environment, Dubai has become a center of experimentation in 3D printing, for construction and in other industries such as medicine. The city aims to have 25 percent of its buildings created with 3D printing by 2030. However, Apis Cor says that its tech is adaptable to other climates and it will be heading to Louisiana and California next to build affordable housing; a use for 3D printing which many claim will be cheaper, faster, and stronger than traditional methods and that has been the focus of other startups such as the Texas-based ICON
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Living in space is the answer, but what was the question?

In early September of this year, I was at a conference at an aviation museum in Seattle, to lend some architectural context to ideas about long-term living in space. The folks at the Space Studies Institute (SSI) had invited me to talk about some of the research on NASA’s 1970s proposals to build huge rotating cities in orbit from my book, Space Settlements, as part of a panel on habitat design. This conference was commemorating two anniversaries; it had been 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing, and 50 years since Gerard O’Neill, a Princeton physics professor—and the leader of the 1970s NASA work—had asked a question of his freshman intro students: “Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?” The answer they arrived at, after much study, was “no,” and they started to imagine the technical details of living elsewhere. My interest in this question has as much to do with history and culture as it does with getting down to the details of execution. “Why do we make space and live in it?” is a question worth asking, whether on Earth or off of it. But, while the conference itself was a fascinating two days of discussion, I was surprised to find that almost everyone there considered O’Neill’s (and my) questions to have been settled long ago. Why, the other panelists seemed to wonder, would anyone even ask “why” humans should go and live in outer space, when we can instead talk about “how?” And so that was the subject of the next two day’s conversation. 50 years on from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic flight—the culmination of almost a decade’s worth of work and about $150 billion in 2019 dollars—that “how?” seems easier than ever to answer. As of writing, it costs Elon Musk’s company SpaceX about $1,500 to launch 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). That’s down from about $43,000 for the same kilogram on the Space Shuttle in 1995. With new vehicles about to come online from SpaceX, NASA, and Jeff Bezos’s spaceflight company Blue Origin, these costs will only continue to go down. Two other factors are driving a new renaissance of plans for living and working in space: The discovery of new resources, and the confirmation, in the United States at least, that those resources can be put to use. The discovery of long-suspected ice in craters at the Moon’s poles was announced in 2018 by an international team of researchers using data from an Indian Lunar satellite. Water in space is useful, not least because living things require it to stay alive. But, once it’s been cracked apart with the cheap and plentiful solar electricity available there, it can become rocket fuel. “Water is the oil of space,” said one panelist at the SSI conference, George Sowers, formerly chief scientist with Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance, now a professor of practice in space mining at the Colorado School of Mines. In 2015, the lobbying efforts of two asteroid mining startups were vindicated when Congress passed the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act into law. This new interpretation of the 1967 international Outer Space Treaty allowed private individuals and companies to engage in “exploration and exploitation” of water and other resources on the Moon, in the asteroids, and on other planets. These same two startups, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, later failed and were acquired by other companies. But the former CEO and cofounder of Planetary Resources, Chris Lewicki, was onstage at the SSI conference to talk about future successes. “If we make money in space, space settlement will happen,” said Lewicki, “it’s just us continuing to do the things we’ve always done.” This trifecta: low launch costs, a supply chain of matter and energy that’s already there, and a legal framework that can guarantee ownership of those resources, is the backend behind a new wave of proposals for architecture in space. These forces will keep that space wave going long after this post-Apollo nostalgia dies down. Earlier this year NASA awarded $500,000 to AI SpaceFactory, “a multi-planetary architectural and technology design agency, building for Earth and space,” for their MARSHA project. MARSHA successfully demonstrated an ability to use in-situ resources—Martian soil (or regolith)—to 3D print the outer shell of a habitat for four humans. The European Space Agency (ESA) Moon Village concept has been in development for most of this decade. Norman Foster, who has also designed for Mars, contributed design work to the Moon Village project in 2016, and SOM released information about its own Moon Village work earlier this spring. And of course, Bjarke Ingels is in on it, too. His firm, BIG, is making plans for a Mars simulator complex outside Dubai, and Ingels told the online design journal SSENSE that this work is a case study for a future Mars city. There’s beginning to be a long history to the notion that designing space for humans in space is a task that requires not just engineering, but architecture as well. At the inception of the Soviet Soyuz project in 1957, chief designer Sergei Korolev was unhappy with the capsule interiors that his engineers were drawing. The only architect working for the Soviet space program at that time was a woman named Galina Balashova, who was designing their office spaces. Korolev hired Balashova to redesign the habitable spaces of Soyuz, and later the space stations Salyut and Mir. Her work is still orbiting today as part of the International Space Station. On the other side of the Space Race, the Americans hired industrial designer Raymond Loewy to do the interior fit-out for Skylab. Famously, he was the one who talked them into adding a window and suggested that the best place for it would be next to the zero-gee “dining table” on the station. Back on Earth, the Space Architecture Studio and Research Lab, founded by the late Yoshiko Sato at Columbia GSAPP, now continues at Pratt under the guidance of Michael Morris, Sato’s husband. For over 30 years, the University of Houston has hosted the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. The chief space architect for AI SpaceFactory’s award-winning MARSHA design was Jeffrey Montes, an alum of the GSAPP studio. And Suzana Bianco, a graduate of the Houston program, was a copanelist at the Space Studies Institute conference in Seattle, presenting her New Venice habitat design. In technical circles within space science, the design of a total system—with launch capability, flight modules, crew or cargo space, and recovery—is known as an “architecture.” But in most of the presentations about various technical architectures for space travel and space settlement in Seattle last month—Bianco’s presentation being a welcome exception—there was little talk about the value that architects bring to those systems. No one knows space like architects do, and these threads that connect the (still largely speculative) work taking place in outer space today with the history of architectural space on Earth are too often neglected by those working in the field. Alongside all of this talk about “how?” the other question haunting the space settlement work being discussed at this conference and elsewhere was “who?”—as in “who will pay for all of this?” Even as the costs and barriers to entry drop, there is still uncertainty about the ways in which value might be designed into the projects that will help people live in space. Whether the users of the systems under design by these space architects are tourists, miners, hotelkeepers, or simple explorers, the question of “who?” is intimately tied up in the “why?” The architect Cedric Price famously asked, “Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” Maybe architects are the designers best positioned to ask, and even answer, these questions about space.
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Scientists are studying concrete production in space

Can you build with concrete in space? That is the question NASA and Pennsylvania State University researchers have been trying to get the answer to in their Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) study. If humanity has any future on the moon or Mars, we’ll need shelter—not from rain or snow, but cosmic radiation and space debris. While the ubiquitous building material is easy enough to make on Earth, it was until now unclear how its mixing might fare in microgravity on other astral bodies. In a paper published in Frontiers in Materials, “Microgravity Effect on Microstructural Development of Tricalcium Silicate (C3S) Paste,” scientists reported on the different microstructures that appeared in concrete (composed of tricalcium silicate and water) made here on Earth and on the International Space Station. They discovered a greater porosity in the extraterrestrial concrete, which may affect the material's strength, though the scientists have yet to test the experimental result itself. The project’s principal investigator, Aleksandra Radlinska, said that “even though concrete has been used for so long on Earth, we still don’t necessarily understand all the aspects of the hydration process. Now we know there are some differences between Earth- and space-based systems and we can examine those differences to see which ones are beneficial and which ones are detrimental to using this material in space.” Humanity has long imagined about what it would be like to live off-world. The NASA and Penn State research comes as numerous explorations of manufacturing and building in space are being taken more seriously—from Elon Musk's ("impossible") terraforming aspirations and Jeff Bezos's own plans for a space colonization, to speculative projects investigating 3D printing on Mars that have won awards from NASA, and promising additive manufacturing experiments happening in the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station. However, there is plenty to be done here on Earth, despite the astronomical whims of many billionaires. The team behind the concrete study hopes that by comparing the compositions of the concrete made in space and on Earth that more can be learned about how the materials we build with act on our own planet, as well.
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Space Settlements explores what happens when we run out of Earth

Space Settlements By Fred Scharmen Columbia Books on Architecture and the City $24.00 The Earth is finite, and the sky is limitless. So proposed Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill during the convening of the NASA Summer Study in 1975, when O’Neill gathered engineers, architects, astrophysicists, and others to flesh out logistics for the space settlements originally conceived by his students. With fears of resource shortages and overpopulation dominating the 1970s, O’Neill, his students, and prominent science fiction authors proposed massive rotating spaceborne structures that could perpetuate humanity among the stars. Of course, as Fred Scharmen meticulously documents in Space Settlements, that’s easier said than done. How can humans make the leap to living in pastoral orbital colonies when every artificial biosphere on Earth has failed? How would placemaking work in a wholly artificial environment, where every vista must be carefully curated as to not alienate inhabitants? What is the “ground,” normally a constant constraint to push against, in a habitat where even that is constructed? Scharmen’s book starts as a history of the creation and impact of a series of Summer Study paintings from artists Rick Guidice and Don Davis, but it quickly turns into a deeper examination of what it means to exist outside of Earth’s atmosphere. If building vertically allows architects to imagine new spaces unconstrained by the ground plane, as Rem Koolhaas proclaimed in Delirious New York, then building in space presents designers with the ultimate freedom—while ironically constraining them with the most stringent challenges. The images that emerged from the Summer Study are, by design, both familiar and alien. They show pastoral landscapes and familiar building typologies curved around the interior of massive toroidal or spherical spaceships, rotating to create artificial gravity at their edges. While O’Neill emphasized the need to consider these settlements as places with logistical needs and eschewed flashy pop culture depictions of his work, Guidice and Davis knew that illustrating the space stations as occupiable places would drum up public interest for the research. These megastructures, half-a-mile wide or wider with names like O’Neill Cylinders, Bernal Spheres, and Stanford Tori, would be anchored into orbits or Lagrange Points—places where the gravitational pull from the Earth and the Moon were equal, meaning whatever's put there, stays there. That imagery is still powerful 40 years later. With the fears of the ’70s once again resurgent as climate change, resource shortages, and mass migration dominate the headlines, billionaires are looking for ways to leave this world behind and move to the stars. Take the Jeff Bezos–founded Blue Origin, a spaceflight and rocketry company founded by the world’s richest man for the express purpose of eventually moving humanity off this planet. In May of this year, the company released a suite of renderings of spacefaring toroidal colonies, each depicting idyllic countrysides and architectural pastiches protected by a glass-enclosed sky, clear references to the Summer Study images from 40 years prior. The renderings were created to gin up excitement—and financial backing—for extracting resources from the moon as the first phase of launching an extraterrestrial settlement, but exactly what’s depicted has a deeper significance. Scharmen devotes much of Space Settlements to the human considerations of living in space. Humans, like all animals, need certain things to thrive, including open space and greenery, and the opportunity to watch something grow; hence the abundance of agricultural landscapes and wide vistas in Davis’s, Guidice’s, and Blue Origin’s images. However, as Scharmen points out (and landscape architect Marc Miller highlighted in an online article for AN), the renderings are very conscious throwbacks to Hudson River School paintings. These paintings were intended, in part, to encourage white observers to move west and assert their dominance over the North American wilderness. In depicting their landscapes as (artificial) wildernesses to be tamed, Blue Origin is trying to entice a very specific, well-educated population to “settle” these massive structures. Therein lies the rub. Both the Summer Study artists and O’Neill knew that their depictions of leisure were a bit misleading, as all colonists would have to work hard to keep their city-in-the-sky running even with advanced automation. More importantly, the rationale behind expanding into these megastructures in the first place is rooted in an outgrowth of extractive capitalism. As Scharmen and O’Neill both discuss in the book, and as the Earth-bound billionaires of today surely know, space outposts would have to justify their immense cost, likely through extraterrestrial mineral mining. However, go one level deeper, and the implications become even darker. As Bezos and his peers have repeatedly stated, they feel that the only way to “save” humanity from our doomed planet is to expand into space. Bezos frequently claims that he has too much money to spend on Earth and that expanding into space is the only logical next step. "The solar system can easily support a trillion humans,” Bezos told Business Insider. “And if we had a trillion humans, we would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources and solar power." To say that entirely artificial and dangerous habitats are the next logical step in humankind’s progression presupposes that this planet, one that we evolved specifically to inhabit, is already full. What was once proposed as a way to foster unique communities in the sky and expand humanity’s consciousness beyond the borders of this world has taken on a nihilist tinge. No one else has summed it up better than Elon Musk, another stargazing tech billionaire. When asked why he wanted to settle other planets in an interview with Aeon, Musk famously replied, “Fuck Earth! Who cares about Earth?”
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SFMOMA celebrates moon landing with a Far Out space-inspired exhibit

In celebration of the semicentennial of the moon landing,  the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is holding an exhibition on space-related design that promises to be out-of-this-world. Far Out: Suits, Habs, and Labs for Outer Space opened on July 20th, 50 years to the day after Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the lunar surface, and contains a variety of space suits, hypothetical space habitats, and moon-based laboratory designs.

The objects on display range in practicality from the tried-and-true to the downright quixotic. There are NASA spacesuits designed for real-life astronauts, as well as examples of Neri Oxman’s organically-grown, biomimetic work. Working with the Mediated Matter research group at MIT, she created a wearable that uses a photosynthetic membrane to convert sunlight into usable microbial material for its user. While the device has yet to be taken into outer space, its potential implications for the feasibility of long-term space travel earned it a spot in the exhibit.

Much of the work on display at SFMOMA is decidedly architectural. Architectural illustrator Rick Guidice's renderings of his Bernal Spheres and Toroidal Colonies, originally produced for NASA, depict suburban housing developments and agricultural landscapes as they might one day exist in free-floating space colonies. The exhibition also includes Mars Ice House, a collaborative project by Clouds Architecture Office (Clouds AO) and Space Exploration Architecture (SEArch) for NASA’s Centennial Challenge Mars Habitat Competition. In its design for a four-person habitat to be placed on the surface of Mars, the team proposed a 3-D printed structure that would be covered in a layer of ice to shield it from the planet’s harsh weather conditions. Visualizations of the design can be viewed in the exhibit, which will be on display through January 20, 2020.

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New York–based startup wins NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge

After four years, NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge culminated at Caterpillar's Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center in Peoria County, Illinois, on May 4, with the New York–based AI SpaceFactory taking home the $500,000 first place prize. The competition’s three phases to develop and refine habitats that could be printed from scavenged soil and form a future Martian outpost were subdivided into smaller progressive challenges. The structures would have to be airtight and printed autonomously via drones or another self-deploying mechanism. New York’s SEarch+ and Apis Cor won first place in the complete virtual construction challenge on March 27, where teams were asked to create full-scale digital renderings of their prospective habitats. AI SpaceFactory’s hive-like MARSHA habitat took home the top prize at the next challenge—the company 3D printed a one-third scale model of its prototypical dwelling. Over the course of 30 hours, the 15-foot-tall MARSHA was printed from a plant-based biopolymer mixed with basalt strands, a substrate similar to what would be found on Mars. All three of the windows and the ceiling cap were placed via a robotic arm without human interference. The structure also survived NASA’s crush, impact, and smoke tests better than its competitors. The smoke test is an especially important measure of the habitat’s airtightness, as the fine microparticulate in the Martian environment could damage sensitive equipment and would be difficult to get rid of. The team from Pennsylvania State University took second place and was awarded $200,000. While it may be a while before a MARSHA habitat is erected on another planet, AI SpaceFactory wants to translate the use of structures printed from sustainable biomaterials to the Earthbound construction industry. Enter TERA, an adapted version of MARSHA built using recycled materials from the original structure, that AI SpaceFactory wants to build in Upstate New York. "We developed these technologies for Space, but they have the potential to transform the way we build on Earth,” said David Malott, CEO and founder of AI SpaceFactory, in a press release. “By using natural, biodegradable materials grown from crops, we could eliminate the building industry’s massive waste of unrecyclable concrete and restore our planet.” The company will launch an Indiegogo campaign to realize TERA later this month, and backers will get an opportunity to stay overnight in the research-structure-slash-sustainable-retreat.
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NASA's habitats of the future will be 3D printed on Mars

After four years, three stages, and countless submissions, NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is winding to a close. The space agency’s competition to design a habitat that could be built on the Moon, Mars, or other planets made of local materials is reaching the final stage, and NASA has awarded $100,000 to be split among the three winners of the complete virtual construction stage. Eleven teams submitted proposals for the complete virtual construction stage, and on March 27, New York’s SEarch+ and Apis Cor took first place and received $33,954.11; the Rogers, Arkansas–based Team Zopherus took second and received $33,422.01; and New Haven, Connecticut’s Mars Incubator placed third and received $32,623.88. The complete virtual construction challenge asked teams to digitally realize their designs in the Martian environment using BIM, building off of an earlier stage in the competition that involved renderings. This time, competitors were judged on the habitat’s layout, programming, scalability, spatial efficiency, and constructability. Smaller 3D-printed models and videos were also produced. SEarch+ and Apis Cor proposed a series of tiered, rook-like towers printed from Martian regolith. The habitat’s hyperboloid shape, resembling a squeezed cylinder, arose naturally from the need to contain the building’s inward pressure; in a low-pressure environment, the greatest force exerted on a pressurized structure is a gas pushing outward (think of inflating a balloon). The habitat’s living areas and laboratories are connected but compartmentalized in case of an emergency thanks to a central service core. Each hexagonal window assembly was designed to be easily assembled in-situ and would contain redundant seals and pressure panes. Zopherus’s concept was simpler and lower to the ground, consisting of a series of latticed domes. The habitat(s) would be assembled by a lander, which would launch a series of autonomous robots to collect the raw materials. It would then mix the materials and print each hexagonal structure from the ground up, making “concrete” from Martian dirt, ice, and calcium oxide. The habitat and adjoining modules would be optimized to capture as much sunlight as possible, but would also include sliding panels to shield the windows for when the solar rays would be too intense. Mars Incubator chose to use a modular panel system for their proposal, utilizing regolith to create the panels’ plates. A central icosahedron would connect to several supplementary pods, and the entire structure would be elevated via a series of support struts, with the critical systems buried below. The primary living space would branch off and connect to a vestibule, multi-use space, and bio-generation pod where plants could be grown. The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program and is managed in part with Bradley University. The complete virtual construction stage was the fourth of five stages in the third phase, and the last leg of the competition will be held from May 1 through 4 at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where teams will 3D print one-third scale versions of their habitats. The winners will split an $800,000 pot.
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TEN Arquitectos breaks ground on a new NASA research facility in Cleveland

In honor of NASA’s 60th anniversary, the Mexico City and New York–based firm TEN Arquitectos has designed an anchor for the space agency’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The X-shaped Research Support Building (RSB), formed from two bisecting volumes, will create a central hub for the collection of World War II–era buildings that currently make up the Glenn Research Center. The research center, founded in 1940 as an aircraft research laboratory and integrated into NASA after the agency’s founding in 1958, is named after the Ohioan astronaut of the same name. The “behind the scenes” facility, one of 10 at NASA, is responsible for much of the agency’s fundamental, technological, and rocket science research. The new 60,000-square-foot RSB broke ground on September 26, and once the building is complete, will create a nexus for the now-scattered campus where researchers can collaborate, relax, and engage in interdisciplinary dialogue. The building’s cross-shaped massing speaks to that purpose, and by cantilevering the upper floors and cladding them in glass, TEN Arquitectos has afforded visitors 270-degree views of the campus. The RSB’s materiality will reflect the rest of the campus’s industrial feel. TEN Arquitectos has chosen to wrap the ground-level volume—which will hold meeting rooms, private offices, and a store—in corrugated metal accented with punch windows, and the second-story’s structural steel trusses have been left visible. Two double-height, glass-walled atriums will divide the first floor’s open plan and additional offices and conference rooms will live in the floating second story, as will restaurants on either end of the volume. The cantilevering second floor will align with the campus’s central artery, Taylor Road, to create a large covered plaza underneath. The campus will also gain 6,000 square feet of new landscaping in the form of the newly-christened Wright Commons. Construction of both projects is expected to wrap up sometime in 2020.
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Remembering Constance Adams, architect who designed space stations and Mars colonies

Constance Adams was not an average architect. Her work was literally out of this world. Instead of imagining structures to build on planet Earth, she dedicated her life to designing habitats for humans in outer space. The 53-year-old space architect died last week in her home in Houston, Texas. Adams is best known for working on the inflatable Kevlar Transit Habitat (TransHab), a prototype live/work space for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The design, developed with her partner, NASA space architect Kriss Kennedy, was originally intended as an attachment to the ISS that could fold into a compact bundle for launch and easily deploy in orbit. The pop-up habitat was designed to function as a traditional house across three levels that featured six bedrooms, communal dining and lounging spaces, a galley, a sick bay, a work space, and a gym. The innovative TransHab never became a reality due to lack of funding, but it did influence an experimental, inflatable module that is currently in orbit today. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), a smaller version of Adams’s design, launched in 2016 and is being used as cargo storage for ISS. NASA is using BEAM to test the viability of expandable habitats and their resistance to solar and cosmic radiation, extreme temperatures, and space debris. Though her research and work seems unconventional, Adams’s career began with more a more usual focus: she designed high rises and configured city masterplans in architecture offices in the U.S. and abroad. During her master’s degree study at Yale School of Architecture, she interned for César Pelli and after graduation held positions for Kenzo Tange in Tokyo and Josef Paul Kleihues in Berlin. In 1996, Adams returned to the U.S. to interview for a job in Houston where she toured NASA’s Johnson Space Center, sparking her curiosity in the space program and her interest in designing interior architecture for humans in outer space. Lockheed Martin, the global aerospace and security company, eventually hired her as a consultant for NASA’s new Habitability Design Center. She immediately began work on her first project called the BIO-Plex, a prototype surface habitat in which six people could survive on Mars for over a year. It was designed with an ecosystem featuring high-performing technology housing plant-growth chambers, waste management, and clean-water systems.   In those first years at NASA, Adams struggled to adjust her way of design thinking, but she soon found there were many similarities between urban design and designing for space, as she told Metropolis in May 2017. “A space-craft really is a master plan,” she said. “It’s not just a city—it’s an entire region. It’s like a close-loop system the size of a house or an apartment, depending upon which phase of a space station it is.” While Adams’s seminal work relied heavily on complex engineering, she was most concerned with the human-centered aspect of design, particularly how a person would interact with an unfamiliar space set up in a weightless environment. Her two-decade career studying this uncharted architectural territory led to many other innovative projects, including several focused on supporting life on Mars—one of her favorite topics. Adams also worked on the cabin architecture and systems design for NASA’s X-38 Crew Return Vehicle, which was canceled due to budget cuts. Last year, she worked with Ikea designers at the Mars Desert Research Center near Hanksville, Utah as they explored space-saving solutions for their furniture collections while living in a Mars simulator. In 2011, through her consulting company Synthesis International, Adams partnered with URS and Foster+Partners on the highly-publicized Virgin Galactic commercial hangar facility, Spaceport America, in New Mexico. Adams left behind a lifetime of research on human-machine interface, sustainable systems, and biomimetic design in interior architecture. Her inventive space habitats, currently being iterated in new designs at NASA, will help impact the future of living on Earth and beyond.
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Uber reveals flying taxi prototype and aims for 2023 launch

Uber’s flying taxi service is one step closer to getting off the ground after the ride-sharing company unveiled its latest flying car concept at their second annual Elevate conference in Los Angeles. The final design isn’t set in stone, but this new prototype is a template for the company’s five manufacturing partners to build off of. Elevate, also the name of Uber’s flying taxi business, wants to let passengers hail a flying car via app and hop from one rooftop sky port to another. Designing a quiet, electric urban helicopter is no small technical feat, and Uber’s latest proposal shows something of a cross between a jet, drone, and helicopter that’s capable of vertical takeoffs and landings (eVTOL). The shuttles will seat four, though they’ll have to be autonomously driven for Uber to make a profit; otherwise two of the seats would go towards a pilot and co-pilot. To make the trips affordable, Elevate will introduce a model similar to Uber Pool, where customers can share a ride that’s going in the same direction and split the cost. Elevate expects its flying cars to hover around 1,000 to 2,000 feet off the ground and travel at 150- to 200-miles-per-hour, and has thrown out several reference models for its aerospace partners, Karem, Embraer, Pipistrel, Aurora Flight, and Bell as platforms to build off of. The latest model, first shown yesterday, would use four sets of stacked rotors for vertical lift and a tail-mounted rotor for thrust. Karem, the latest company to join Elevate, wants to build a working prototype of its eVTOL by 2020 and put them into commercial use by 2023. It might seem ambitious, but it’s a target that Elevate’s other partners are also aiming for. The infrastructure hurdle is another significant challenge that Uber will have to overcome if it really wants to make this system a reality. Besides having to actually develop software for the autonomously flying shuttles (something Uber has struggled with on the ground), the sky ports themselves and an unmanned air traffic control system will need to be built out. Elevate will be getting a bit of a boost in that department, as the company recently teamed up with NASA and the US Army to bring its ridesharing dreams to the sky.
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NASA’s bold space habitats inspired a generation of designers

This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, Space Settlements, about the architectural, historical, social, and science-fictional contexts surrounding NASA’s efforts to design large-scale human habitats in orbit during the 1970s. Space Settlements will be published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City in fall 2018. In 1975, Big Science and the counterculture teamed up with two illustrators to design the cities of the future. But, unlike the communes and megastructures that we’re familiar with from the speculative architecture of that era, these would not be located on Earth. Stewart Brand, the publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, and engineers at the NASA Ames Research Center both supported a project—first proposed by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill—to build huge habitats in orbit that would house millions of people. At a Summer Study conference in what was even then known as Silicon Valley, NASA and O’Neill hired painters Don Davis and Rick Guidice to create renderings of these new worlds. Most previous plans for space stations had consisted of a disconnected series of capsules or chambers. The Summer Study habitats were large enough that they were effectively new ground surfaces, spun for artificial gravity, on which any kind of city or landscape could be constructed. NASA’s team architect Patrick Hill—of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo—specified that, in order to achieve maximum efficiency and space-saving, the buildings inside should be made from systems of prefabricated parts that could be assembled quickly, offering variety and adaptability. Beyond these constraints, the two illustrators had broad latitude to design the architecture that would be shown in the renderings. Both drew on their unique combinations of backgrounds to offer their own interpretation of the future of space occupation. Davis was originally an illustrator for planetary scientists like Carl Sagan, and had also worked on book covers for science fiction novels like Larry Niven’s Ringworld of 1970, depicting a habitat design concept not unlike the “Stanford Torus” sketched by O’Neill’s team. Davis focused on the landscape, and the challenges of creating planetary ecosystems within small closed worlds. Human inhabitation, in Davis’s paintings, touches the artificial ground lightly. To depict it, Davis drew on his fondness for Buckminster Fuller’s domes and other self-built architecture like the “Zomes” made by Steve Baer at the famous Drop City commune. Davis would have been familiar with this work as a reader of Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, which included Baer’s “Zome Primer,” an instruction manual for building these structures out of repurposed car hoods. Other buildings painted by Davis are more reminiscent of the kind of Googie architecture related to an earlier generation of pop science fiction painters like Frank R. Paul. In an interview, Davis also admitted he would go to the library and read copies of Progressive Architecture magazine for inspiration. Guidice, on the other hand, had been trained as an architect, and had made the shift from there to commercial illustration and work promoting space exploration and aviation concepts for NASA. Guidice’s paintings take the kit-of-parts concepts from work like Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67, and remix them to create even more individuality. Reyner Banham wrote about the concept of the “Terrassenhaus,” the scheme of terracing trays that megastructural projects use to shape space, in his book Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past. Safdie used the resulting platforms as the basis for his notion of “for everyone, a garden,” combining high-rise density with a suburban Garden City ethos. In Guidice’s renderings the friendly modernist Garden Cities like Columbia, outside Baltimore, take their comfortable combination of vernacular and contemporary into new high-density suburbs in space. These speculations strike a compromised balance between the displacing conditions in space—like the unfamiliar inverted horizon, the hostile environment outside, and the small size of the habitat—and the excitement inherent in exploring and making new worlds. The speculative contemporary architecture of the 1960s and ’70s—small-scale personal construction with sheet metal, and large-scale New Towns made of reinforced concrete—is put to use to show that space is for you. The two illustrators, acting as designers, show that the architecture of the future space city can be adapted to your lifestyle, whether you’re a dropout desert communalist, or a cosmopolitan terrace urbanite. Fred Scharmen teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University and is the author of the upcoming book Space Settlements.