National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Research Projects

Photocatalysts for Mild Decomposition of Organic Raw Materials

Principal Investigators
Dr. Aloysius Hepp and Dr. Michael Kulis

Research Associates
Nathan Peck and Jacob Poldruhi

This activity supports Trash-to-Supply Gas Task that is part of the Repurposing Logistics Project of the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Program. As mankind ventures out to explore the solar system, it is critical to efficiently utilize raw materials. For example, plastic waste must be re-cycled into useful materials such as water and fuel.

The project seeks to develop processes to begin the re-cycling process of organic waste materials into simpler compounds that can eventually be used to produce fuels and other needed raw materials to support human habitation off the Earth. Simple inorganic photocatalysts can produce gas precursor materials for fuels, using mild conditions such as lower temperatures and pressures.

Research Associates Nathan Peck and Jacob Poldruhi are using photocatalysts in a simple photochemical reactor to decompose organic model compounds. The reactions are being monitored by electronic absorption (UV-Vis) spectroscopy for general indication of decomposition rate. More specific analysis of each reaction is being undertaken, using gas chromatography mass spectroscopy (GCMS). GCMS allows the identification of the specific intermediates and end products being formed during the reactions. Identification of intermediates and ends products will ideally enable work on the conversion of said intermediates and end products to usable fuel.

Probabilistic Assessment of Space-Flight Medical Events

Research Associates
Spencer Lane, Brian Moore, Kirsti Pajunen

Medical risk is a part of everyday life for astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) and space exploration, generally. Medical risks, while not necessarily common, can be life-and mission-threatening. Because of this, a model has been created to assess the risk of certain medical events under space mission conditions, called the Integrated Medical Model (IMM). The model uses a type of risk analysis called Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA). In the current implementation of the model, the PRA modules are discrete and static; they do not take into account the changing conditions that would be encountered during a long duration mission. An effort is underway to convert the static PRA models to Dynamic PRA (DPRA) models. The DPRA models would take into account changing conditions in space missions, such as human interaction, changing system components, and environmental factors and then apply a risk analysis to find more accurate and useful probabilities of certain medical events encountered by astronauts in space. This analysis could then be used to assess what types of medical events need to be investigated for long space journeys. It also could be used to optimize the assignment of the crew for certain missions, as well as, the allocation of medical supplies based on likelihood of need.

Wind-Powered Rover for Venus Exploration

Principal Investigators
Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis and Mr. Anthony Colozza

Research Associates
Gina Benigno, Kathleen Hoza, and Samira Motiwala

Venus, with a surface temperature of 450°C and an atmospheric pressure 90 times higher than that of the Earth, is a difficult target for exploration. However, technologies being developed at NASA Glenn Research Center for high temperature electronics and power systems make it possible that future missions may be able to survive the Venus environment. Powering such a rover while remaining within the scope of a Discovery class mission will be difficult, but harnessing Venus’ surface winds might be a viable way to keep a powered rover small and light. This project will scope out the feasibility of a wind-powered rover for Venus surface missions.

The objective of the study is a conceptual design study for a future mission to Venus. Research Associates Gina Benigno, Kathleen Hoza, and Samira Motiwala will investigate past and current technologies, analyze science requirements, and compose a system-level design architecture for the mission. Trade-off studies will be conducted to down-select the most feasible design, followed by a more detailed engineering design of the Venus rover mission.