Mason Peck

Masonpeck nasa02
s NASA Chief Technologist, and an associate professor at Cornell University. His immediate predecessor in the NASA position was Bobby Braun.

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NASATechnology1793 karma

I make it a practice to never disagree with Stephen Hawking. I think our destiny lies among the planets of our solar system. It'll take a combination of NASA, other governments of the world, and the participation of all of you to make this happen.

NASATechnology1767 karma

It comes down to survival of the crew. We need to create ways to help astronauts survive exposure to galactic cosmic rays and other hazards on the trip there and back. Getting there quicker would help. So that inspires the creation of advanced propulsion capabilities, but right now there's nothing on the horizon to shorten the trip time enough so that we don't have to worry about radiation.

NASATechnology1238 karma

That's been proposed, but water is heavy. It might be a little less heavy to surround astronauts themselves with water, but even that is not very efficient and is difficult to achieve. The solution ultimately will be a combination of technologies, some having to do with human health and some having to do with the design of the vehicle and some having to do with the timing and operation of the mission.

NASATechnology1025 karma

In fact, we are looking into the basic physics that could lead to warp drive someday. That work is going on at Johnson Space Center. This kind of investigation is part of NASA's early stage innovation portfolio. Our philosophy is that only a few of these early stage ideas will ever be prove out, but we must invest in early stage technology if we are to have a hope of transforming space travel the way that a warp drive would.

NASATechnology955 karma

NASA has been funding an exciting study known as Contour Crafting, which involves using a kind of large 3D printer to assemble large structures on the Moon from lunar regolith. One of the most exciting possibilities is that we could be recycling old spacecraft, building new spacecraft out of asteroid material, all of which will increase access to space, because we will only have to launch the valuable difficult to manufacture components such as integrated circuits and people.

NASATechnology929 karma

I'd rather look to the future. I believe we'll eventually emerge on the other side of this financial funk the stronger for having made some tough decisions over the recent years. When we return to a time of relative abundance, I look forward a more robust investment in our nation's future in space.

NASATechnology907 karma

  1. I'm very excited by the prospect of citizen space, that is, individuals building their own space technology and launching it. Some incredible innovations come from the do-it-yourself or maker community, and I expect the renaissance in technology that makers represent will have a big impact on NASA's future.
  2. NASA has many compelling technology projects underway. One of the more promising is inflatable aerodynamic decelerators, which will slow down spacecraft entering Mars atmosphere and will allow us to land twice as much mass as we are currently able.

NASATechnology879 karma

Right now, there are regulations in place to prevent the growth of space debris population. In addition, NASA and other government agencies are working on early stage technologies to remove debris. A lot of that work is sponsored by NASA's new Space Technology Mission Directorate.

NASATechnology716 karma

I mentioned something about this a moment ago. Let me describe it this way: right now, the mass we use in space all comes from the Earth. We need to break that paradigm so that the mass we use in space comes from space. The more we can leverage the resources of the solar system, the less we have to spend to make science and human space exploration successful. There are materials science challenges here, as well as new technologies needed for manufacturing with in situ resources.

NASATechnology686 karma

It may be that someday we will explore the solar system and even settle it using hardware and supplies that we create from resources we gather from other planets. Advanced manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing may be the way that we will build all that hardware in space. What we learn from meeting that kind of challenge will have a big impact on manufacturing here on Earth.