Posts tagged with "NASA":

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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.
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Uber and NASA to bring flying taxis to Los Angeles

Ready to zoom into the future? Uber is partnering with NASA to bring an air taxi service to Los Angeles as soon as 2020. The battery-powered, four-person electric helicopter would sail above L.A.'s clogged, serpentine road network, logging 60 miles with just one four-minute charge. The project, dubbed Elevate, relies on UTM, NASA's emerging air traffic control technology. UTM stands for unmanned traffic management, a way to control low-altitude flights, without orange flag–waving workers. While this idea may seem far-fetched to outsiders, the project partners are optimistic that the flying cars could be a viable transit option by 2028, just in time for the L.A.'s Olympics hosting duties. Previously, the company announced it will bring its flying car service to Dallas and Dubai. According to Forbes, Embraer, Bell Helicopter, and Aurora, a Boeing-owned company, have already signed onto Elevate. Here's a video from Uber that explains the project, the research behind it, and next steps:
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Primitive hut installation by OMG! decomposes in upstate New York

One might say that the Primitive Hut pavilion by OMG! is both high-tech and traditional, or even temporary and permanent. A mix of new and old techniques and technologies, the project is designed to last indefinitely while at the same time decompose away. OMG! is a collaborative between Martin Miller of Antistatics and Caroline O’Donnell of CODA, and their latest installation, Primitive Hut, is situated in the OMI International Arts Center in Ghent, New York. The two set out to produce a work that would question the relationship of architecture to time through an exploration of growth and decay. To do so, they engaged digital fabrication techniques as well as a structural system first proposed by NASA engineer Kenneth Cheung. Utilizing what are called digital cellular solids, the team constructed the installation out of a lattice of roughly though accurately cut interlocking plywood modules. Besides the plywood, the only other materials employed were sawdust (waste from cutting the plywood), bio-resin, hemp, and an infill of manure cylinders. One other component that balances the line between material and site are a set of four maple trees which grow through the structure. “The planting of the four trees more than offsets the wood used in the pavilion. As the pavilion decomposes, the trees will be nourished and will eventually lift the roof structure up in its branches. As in the original etching, the project is about opening up our understanding of architecture towards a better interaction with nature,” O’Donnell told AN. Referencing the famous illustration from Marc-Antoine Laugier’s text "Essai sur l'architecture" from 1755, O’Donnell explained the formal and material considerations as they relate to temporal aspects of the project. “This text speculates on the primitive human’s first house as one which harnessed the potentialities of the environment and blurred the lines between nature and architecture. While this well-known image shows the iconic form of the house formed by the tree branches, the house is not yet formed and implies both a future and a past state of growth and decay.” The 5,000 individual pieces that make up the structure were cut in such a way to optimize the fabrication process. “In the early days, computational design was often exuberant for the sake of exuberance and the image of blobs and folds became synonymous with digital architecture,” Miller said in reference to the changing attitudes surrounding digital and parametric design. Rather than a pure formal or computation exploration, OMG!’s work is interested in leveraging the possibility of efficiencies in the process and the ability to engage with the material in a very precise craftsperson-oriented level of detail. As such, the process of producing the individual pieces led to the specific pattern and texture born of the rationalized cutting process. “The ribbed effect produced actually reads as an exuberant detail, but is born out of the efficiency of the fabrication.” The pavilion opened to the public on October 21, and will remain on the site in some form until the trees that are growing through it die. So, at least 200 years.
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A Hawaii-based Mars simulation poses tough design challenges

Since the beginning of civilization, architects have kept themselves primarily preoccupied with the buildings and structures here on planet earth. But with Elon Musk predicting that humans will reach Mars in 2025, perhaps it is time to consider architecture abroad—far, far abroad. What zoning requirements will exist on the Red Planet? What materials are there? What tools are needed? In short—what should we consider when planning for Martian architecture?

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program is attempting to answer these questions. In August 2016, HI-SEAS concluded the 12-month Mission IV, NASA’s longest Earth-based Mars simulation. Funded by NASA and carried out by the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus, the program’s main focus is on behavioral research, particularly the psychological and psychosocial changes that would occur in the crew during these grueling, isolating missions. But along with that research, HI-SEAS also offers opportunities to study extraterrestrial architectural possibilities and how design can impact the quality of life to, from, and on other planets.

The HI-SEAS habitat itself is a prefab geodesic dome by Pacific Domes International, an open concept design by Blue Planet Research. The structure has a habitable volume of approximately 13,000 cubic feet, which translates to approximately 1,800 square feet across the main floor, second floor loft, and a workshop in an adjacent 20-foot-long steel shipping container. The double-height main living area contains a kitchen, laboratory, bathroom, simulated airlock, storage unit, dining room, public area, and telemetry room. On the second floor are six bedrooms and a half-bath. A 10kW solar array on the building’s south side and back-up hydrogen fuel cell generator provide energy; a propane generator can be used in the event both systems are down. Water is stored in two 500-gallon potable water tanks (refilled once a month or so), and waste water is stored in two 250-gallon gray water tanks.

Superficially, this setup meets all basic requirements for the crew to survive and conduct research, but as Mission IV architect Tristan Bassingthwaighte discovered during his year-long tenure there, it does little to address the entire scope of human needs. “While it is nice and spacious and open, the actual programming of the habitat and the amenities inside are far from ideal in keeping a crew happy and productive,” he said.

According to Bassingthwaighte, one major issue was the lack of soundproofing and privacy. To be low-impact and semiportable (important factors when building an initial base on another planet), the habitat was constructed from lightweight materials such as canvas and plywood, which do little in terms of acoustic mitigation. In their efforts to find privacy, team members attempted to seek refuge in the airlock (the only semiprivate space), but other teammates were constantly walking through the space. So, in case spending a year with the same six people wasn’t enough of a challenge, they could also hear each other 24/7—a guaranteed method of irritating basically everyone.

With limited access to natural light, the LED lighting within the mostly white interior also began to grate on the crew. “It was more boring than anything,” Bassingthwaighte explained. “We had very fake looking colors and that plus the all-white interior was just so boring.”

Addressing these two concerns are fairly straightforward—Bassingthwaighte redesigned the interior layout to improve the sense of privacy, create additional semi-private areas, and include more flexible lighting options. This was done through minor program changes and introduction of soundproofing materials and more natural LEDs.

But to truly address “the sum of human needs within the space,” Bassingthwaighte and other previous crew architects had to get more creative than that. They concluded that a 3-D printer would be a crucial tool to help reduce the need for spare parts, solve unanticipated issues, and, ultimately, to allow newly settled Martians to build their homes and cities. During actual space flight, 3-D files can be made by designers on the ground and simply printed by the astronauts, who are otherwise occupied with the spaceship; but once crew members have reached their destination, anything can be printed as needed (provided there are a few space architects and designers on board to create the files).

Unsurprisingly, virtual and augmented reality are also important to help people transcend the physical limitations of the space and distract them from their immediate, isolating surroundings. “The major consideration of these designs is people and how to keep them happy,” Bassingthwaighte explained. “Regardless of the surrounding situation, if your living space is flexible with nice materials, nice lighting, and augmented reality to make the space seem larger and more dynamic, then the population is going to be happier.”

And, until we make it to Mars and start to build cities there, working with a different climate, topography, and gravitational force, human-centric design is our best bet for buildings on Earth, too. 

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Moon Camp complex and Space Hotel debated by congress

The purpose of the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) was debated by congress last month. Congress agreed on the role NASA could potentially play in the future, contemplating the possibility of a hotel on the International Space Station (ISS) and and camp base on the moon. Despite the somewhat whimsical ideas being thrown about, the notion of re-aligning NASA's objectives was paramount. The race for the next frontier in space may have already started with Russian firm Orbital Technologies. That company has put forward the idea for a Commercial Space Station (CSS), though space get-away's wouldn't be cheap. Travel costs are estimated to begin at $800,000 with another $160,000 piled on for your stay. The space hotel concept relies solely on prefabricated components, a method successfully employed for the ISS. Architects and engineers, however, would be free from the earthly worries of damp-proofing, load bearing walls, vapor checks though envelope performance, and making sure the structure is sturdy. When a new addition is sent up to the ISS, it is primarily function-orientated with little attention given to its aesthetic qualities. For a commercial space station, this would likely change. The debate for moon camps in congress however, only arose as an idea to give astronauts six-month training prior to lengthier expeditions to Mars. Whether NASA plans to construct such a spectacle remains to be seen, though it appears the decision is out of their hands.
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There’s water flowing on Mars, and one day NASA could build this ice-covered human dwelling on the Red Planet

With the recent discovery by NASA that water is flowing on Mars, the call for housing on on the red planet has never been more relevant. And right on time with the outpouring of interplanetary news, the "3D Printed Habitat Challenge for Mars" competition, sponsored by NASA and America Makes, has unveiled its winning designs. The competition attracted over 160 applicants including Foster + Partners and the European Space Agency. Triumphing above all was a joint submission by SEArch (Space Exploration Architecture) and Clouds AO (Clouds Architecture Office), an architecture and space research collective which was awarded $25,000 in the process. It's especially fitting since SEArch and Clouds AO's submission uses a "follow the water" approach to conceptualize, site, and construct the winning design. In the brief, participants were challenged with creating a livable space for a four-person crew utilizing materials available on the Martian planet with a 3D printing device. SEArch and Clouds AO said the so-called ICE HOUSE proposal seeks to capture light and bridge the connection with the harsh external landscape of Mars and human life. According to the judges, ICE HOUSE was notable for bucking the trend of creating an underground dwelling (a solution which the majority of applicants pursued). The proposal instead would make use of the anticipated abundance of surface ice, constructing a thin, yet sturdy 0.2 inch-wide ice shell structure, suitably protecting the four crew members. Such a feature would allow the inhabitants to gaze upon Mars' landscape in the safety of a dwelling while also saving energy by not using artificial lighting. Natural light is also expected to boost morale. During the research phase of the submission, the team of scientists, astrophysicists, geologists, structural and 3D printing engineers, and eight designers went through various testing procedures to ensure the durability and feasibility of the proposal. The extensive research they went to can be found on their website.
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While Google is photographing your street, its cars will also be mapping the air city dwellers breathe

Will we call it Air View? Google is collaborating with San Francisco–based, pollution-tech start-up Aclima to begin assessing air quality in metropolitan areas across the United States. Cars Google uses to capture its popular Street Views have been equipped with Aclima's environmental sensors and will be able to detect pollutants such as Methane, Carbon Dioxide, and Black Carbon. https://youtu.be/Ggkab1lKj6g In a test drive back in August 2014, three Google cars equipped with these sensors collected 150 million data points after driving 750 hours around Denver. The study, conducted by NASA and the EPA, successfully mapped the change in outdoor air patterns and has confirmed the effectiveness of mobile sensing."We have a profound opportunity to understand how cities live and breathe in an entirely new way by integrating Aclima's mobile sensing platform with Google Maps and Street View cars," Aclima CEO and co-founder Davida Herzl said on the company's blog. The Aclima–Google Street View cars are said to be maneuvering around the Bay Area next. They will eventually branch out to other cities to collect data that could help create healthier cities for people to live in. In the future, Aclima hopes to make the data accessible to the public.
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World Science Festival in New York City lets you listen to the sounds of satellites from the comfort of your home planet

If you live in New York City, or are in town this weekend, you might want to check out the World Science Festival, specifically the NASA Orbit Pavilion currently located on NYU's Gould Plaza. https://vimeo.com/129032731 The silver, shell-like structure that you see above lets visitors "listen to sonic interpretations of the actual movements of satellites orbiting Earth, view our planet through the 3-D programs, and conduct hands-on activities with NASA scientists." Pretty cool, right? The pavilion was designed by the Brooklyn-based STUDIOKCA with sound artist Shane Myrbeck for the good people at NASA. Bedford+Bowery recently stopped by the pavilion to check it out first hand. Take a look at the site's video above, and if you like what you see, you can stop by yourself at the cost of zero dollars. But hurry up, the festival only runs until Sunday.
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NASA crowdsourcing proposals for a built environment on Mars: Shelter, food, water, and communications systems needed

NASA is on a mission to end our parasitic dependence on earthly resources with a planned hijack of Mars. Through the Journey to Mars challenge, NASA invites applicants to submit proposals for a built environment on the red planet that is conducive to long-term human habitation and sustenance. Proposals must describe one or more Mars surface systems or operations for a “technically achievable, economically sustainable” human living space. Priorities are the indispensables such as air, water, food and communication systems, calling for a brainwave that would enable scientists to circumvent climatic deterrents, including temperatures as unforgiving as minus 195 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, average temperature hovers around minus 80F. According to NASA, the proposed solutions must not depend on Earth for resources. Given a minimum interim of 500 days between each resupply opportunity and space as well as weight constraints on spacecraft, the only option left is to establish an in situ, self-replenishing food source. In the meantime, NASA has put out antennae in the form of spacecraft monitoring and rovers on the surface of Mars, while the International Space Station is investigating the health-related ramifications of long-term space travel. The brief requests only written submissions  diagrams and charts are immaterial at this stage of the game. NASA elaborates that submissions “may consist of proposed approaches, capabilities, systems or a set of integrated systems that enable or enhance a sustained human presence on Mars. Solutions should include the assumptions, analysis, and data that justify their value. Submissions should include a process to develop, test, implement, and operate the system or capability. Submissions will be judged on relevance, creativity, simplicity, resource efficiency, feasibility, comprehensiveness and scalability.” The deadline to apply is July 6, 2015. NASA is awarding a total of $15,000 to three finalists, whose proposals will be used in conjunction with NASA’s concurrent Solar Electric Propulsion project, namely the rocket that is expected to launch the system. The aeronautics administration is also tinkering with a Space Launch System and several existing robotic landers such as the Curiosity Rover. The goal is to send humans to Mars by the 2030s.