The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has tapped UTSA researchers to join a team that will build homes on the moon and Mars. As exploration missions beyond Earth become more ambitious, NASA must consider new technologies to keep habitats operational when they are not occupied by astronauts.
To help achieve this the space agency has selected UTSA to be part of its Space Technology Research Institutes to advance space-smart habitat designs, or Smart Hab. This research will complement other NASA projects to help mature the mission architecture needed to meet exploration goals.
UTSA, led by Arturo Montoya, an associate professor with dual departmental appointments in civil engineering and mechanical engineering, will join NASA’s Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats institute. RETHi seeks to design and operate resilient deep-space habitats that can adapt, absorb, and rapidly recover from expected and unexpected disruptions. It plans to leverage expertise in civil infrastructure with advanced technology fields such as modular and autonomous robotics and hybrid simulation.
As part of the RETHi program UTSA will receive financial support to build computational models, including the algorithms needed to create resilient moon and Mars future homes.
“This grant will allow UTSA and its students to play a key role in solving the challenge of deep-space habitation, while building partnerships with NASA facilities, universities, and industries,” Montoya says.
Through an integrated effort, RETHi will mature deep-space habitats that can operate in both crewed and uncrewed configurations. The institute plans to create a cyberphysical prototype testbed of physical and virtual models to develop, deploy, and validate different capabilities. The RETHI team includes Purdue University, the University of Connecticut, and Harvard.
“Our participation in efforts to map a reality of extraterrestrial habitation as part of this initiative helps to support President Eighmy’s vision for UTSA as a great multicultural discovery enterprise and being world-engaged,” says JoAnn Browning, dean of the College of Engineering. “This grant also illustrates our emphasis on multidisciplinary research, since it brings together the fields of autonomous robotics, advanced computing methods for hybrid simulation, and sustainable civil infrastructure design.”
UTSA with the other collaborators will be funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.