NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (RATS) team has commenced testing communication scenarios for near-Earth asteroids. The RATS team also evaluates technology, human-robotic systems and extravehicular equipment in the high desert near Flagstaff, Arizona from August 27 through September 12.
Field testing provides a knowledge base that helps scientists and engineers design, build and operate better equipment, and establish requirements for operations and procedures. The Arizona desert has a rough, dusty terrain and extreme temperature swings that simulate conditions that may be encountered on other surfaces in space.
Some of the elements that will be tested at Desert RATS during the next fortnight are prototypes of the transportation elements needed to explore a near-Earth asteroid:
– Deep Space Habitat (Habitat Demonstration Unit-Deep Space Habitat – X-Hab incorporating inflatable structures)
– “Free-Flyer” – Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) Crew Cabin module
– Robotic assistant vehicle system – Centaur
– Deep Space Network- communications and data network link
RATS team will conduct integrated mission simulations in the Arizona desert near Black Point Lava Flow to evaluate different conditions that will enable multiple destinations for future human exploration including high earth orbit, Lagrange points, the Moon, near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), Mars moons, and ultimately the surface of Mars. (NASA)
This year's focus on asteroids is consistent with NASA's exploration goals going forward. Last year, President Obama directed the space agency to concentrate on getting astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, then on to Mars by the mid-2030s.
Featured image credit: NASA
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