NASA has kicked off a competition among university engineers to design an inflatable habitat that is "light-weight, safe, and reliable" to house future astronauts "in space and on other planetary bodies." On the line is $58,000.
The eXploration Habitat (or X-Hab) "lofts," as NASA is chicly terming them, must be designed to sit as an expansion atop the agency's existing hard shell prototype, which will include (cramped) spaces for activities like suit maintenance and geological research. The challenge, open to all university seniors and graduate students, is intended to spur interest and research in math, science, and engineering, and will honor each of three winning teams with $48,000 and a shot to field test their prototype for a final ten grand.
Realizing the seriousness sheltering astronauts inside of a sophisticated moon bounce, the proposal guidelines make the difficulty of the challenge clear: the lofts must be "analogous to a terrestrial home lasting 25 years with a low-carbon foot-print and Net-Zero resource consumption with no maintenance and operations required to live in it while seamlessly providing comfortable and safe living capabilities." Were you sitting on the surface of the moon, you might want something between you and the desolate vacuum of space besides an inflatable plastic wall, but hey, that's why you're not an astronaut. [MSNBC via Inhabitat]