Posts tagged with "NASA":

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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. 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. 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.
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A Gravity-Free Leap in Commercial Space Travel

Buckle up: the gap between commercial space travel and the present moment is rapidly narrowing. Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America (designed by Foster + Partners) recently signed an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration granting access to airspace in New Mexico, with designs to turn the ground beneath into a commercial spaceflight center. A major milestone in commercial space travel, the agreement arrives the same week as the unveiling of the Dragon V2, a manned spacecraft designed by SpaceX and Elon Musk. The cutting-edge capsule is a major step in building spacecraft that have the same touch-and-respond sensitivity as a helicopter. The Dragon's development fell beneath a NASA initiative to replace the retired Space Shuttle. Maybe it will be used at the new spaceport, also designed by SpaceX and Elon Musk, in Brownsville, South Texas?
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One Small Step For Houston is One Giant Step Backward for Johnson Space Center

AN recently profiled the emerging architectural typology of spaceports across the country, and now there's news from the Houston site that helped launch the dream of space travel decades ago. Independence Shuttle, a full-scale replica of NASA’s iconic Space Shuttle, recently was moved from the Johnson Space Center (JSC) to its next-door neighbor, Space Center Houston. To some people, the relocation was a matter of mere logistics. To others, however, the transfer symbolized not just a lessening of power and precedence associated with Johnson Space Center, but with NASA’s space program as a whole. Johnson Space Center, formed in 1961, is one of ten major NASA field centers, and one of the most famous space travel establishments. The 40-foot deep swimming pool built for astronaut training, was, in its heyday, frequented by astronauts and the curious public alike. The control room oversaw the launch and devastating loss of the Challenger, received Armstrong’s transmission as he made his first steps on the moon, and rejoiced with the rest of America during the Apollo 13 recovery. To say that JSC is iconic, a cornerstone, and a piece of history is an understatement: it is a monolithic nexus of space travel, this world’s anchoring connection to the vast unknown. So as grand-scale space launches wane and commercial flight takes over, the creeping neglect of JSC’s facilities and consequent decline stabs into the hearts of those connected to NASA’s past—and not simply for nostalgic reasons. Astronauts associated with JSC’s glory days—men like Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and Jim Lovell—have spoken out against the political shifts associated with JSC’s downsizing. One such maneuver occurred when President Obama cancelled Constellation—a Bush-era initiative to send astronauts to the moon—in order to shuttle a sizable chunk of NASA’s funding from the manned space exploration into commercial space flight. The shift denotes a decrease in specialist training aimed at greater expansion into grand scale space projects—missions to Mars, for example, or a continuation of low-orbiting space travel—towards everything that “commercial space travel” connotes: sending consumers, not specialists, into orbit; changing the pioneer frontier into a tourism industry. Armstrong and Levitt both argue that the change negates the $10 billion already funneled into Constellation. They claim that private enterprise is taking a major step backward, that government’s funding focal change will place the U.S. into a reliant relationship with Russia, thereby relegating the nation to a second-rate spot for space travel. These men are the voice, in a nutshell, of those deeply unhappy with the changes taking place. JSC countered these claims with an official statement claiming that the center is still relevant. It cited robotics projects and continued operation of Orion—a spacecraft designed to take astronauts to asteroids—as evidence. JSC, the statement said, is a cultural mainstay of Houston’s identity, and it will stay that way. Certain facts remain however, and seeing, in this case, is part of believing. The government’s retraction of funds has instilled the center with a calcified, weary demeanor.  JSC has employed far fewer people in the past two years than ever before.  Half the buildings have been torn down or consolidated. One of them is a new building, the NASA Johnson Space Center 20, which has upstaged its famous brother by being the first LEED platinum project of its kind in NASA. In comparison, the control room at JSC that once oversaw mankind’s greatest scientific achievements now has less technology than the average smart phone. “Nothing’s going on there,” said one former NASA employee. “People are leaving in waves.” The Independence Shuttle was just moved next door. But as far as interpreting symbols go, they might as well have launched it to the moon.
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Quick Clicks> Barbie's Abode, Faked Results, Transit Geography, and Hangar One

Bachelorette Pad. This fall, Barbie is finally becoming an architect—and getting a new house—built with the latest sustainable materials. Mattel teamed up with AIA to host a competition to design Barbie’s new home and Ting Li and Maja Parklar's design for the Malibu Beach House took the top prize. Their design features a green roof, solar panels, bamboo flooring, and low VOC paints. More at Inhabitat. Cheating on the Test. In a major blow for public safety, the New York Post reported that American Standard Testing and Consulting Labs—the company responsible for testing the safety and strength of concrete in projects like LaGuardia Airport, the Lincoln Tunnel, and Yankee Stadium—faked concrete test results. DOB inspectors have begun conducting spot checks and the buildings were found safe. Transit Geography. Using Google Maps, Mapnificent illustrates how far public transportation users can go in a specified amount. While only available in major global cities, the maps allow users to calculate transportation times at two intersecting areas, highlighting possible travel distances. Now we can figure out exactly how far public transportation takes us in a New York minute. Hanging in There. Nasa’s Hangar One at Moffet Field in San Francisco—built in 1933 for the USS Macon Navy airship—was once the largest freestanding structure in the world, but funding to renovate the massive facility have fallen through according to Gizmodo. NASA is in the process of pursuing alternative reuse options for the historic modern landmark.
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Drive Me To The Moon

Few of mankind's feats have inspired more awe than the Apollo moon missions of the late 1960s and early 70s. Well we're going for it again, and this time we're bringing a cooler car! NASA, which plans to put its boots back on earth's lone natural satellite in 2020, recently unveiled it's updated moon buggy—a 12-wheeled, electric-powered, fully-pressurized extraterrestrial vehicle that can house two astronauts for up to 14 days of no-holds-barred lunar exploration. Architects take note: With the way the economy is going, your next commissions may be anywhere, even on the moon. (Just check the video after the break.) Unlike the Apollo missions, which were brief visits to the moon's surface, the next NASA expeditions will each last for six months or longer. In part these missions will serve to prepare humans for long-term stays off of earth's surface, with the final goal of putting people on Mars by 2030. But they will also be occasion to explore more of the moon's surface, a purpose for which the rover is specially suited. The ground-facing windows at the front of the rover will allow astronauts to inspect the surface from the safety of the cabin. When they see a specimen of interest, they can take a stroll outside by stepping through a hatch and into one of two suits attached to the back of the vehicle. The rover will make it's first public outing on January 20th at Barack Obama's inaugural parade. Don't miss it.