NIAC Projects Target Mars, Venus & Pluto

Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump mission. (Credit: Benjamin Goldman)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An airship for Mars, two spacecraft capable of exploring the hellish environment of Venus, and a fusion-powered orbiter and lander for Pluto are three of the planetary-related research projects recently funded by theNASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

In all, NIAC funded eight advanced projects focused on Mars, Venus and Pluto in its latest annual funding round. The space agency also funded two proposals aimed at identifying and extracting resources on planets, moons and asteroids.
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NIAC Funds Advanced Propulsion Projects

Mach Effects for In Space Propulsion: Interstellar Mission. (Credit: Heidi Fearn)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently funded six proposals focused on futuristic propulsion systems for missions to Pluto, Venus and other solar systems.

There were four Phase I proposals that are worth approximately $125,000 apiece over nine months. NIAC also funded two Phase II proposals that are worth $500,000 each for two-year investigations.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Fusion-Enabled Pluto Orbiter and Lander

Fusion-Enabled Pluto Orbiter and Lander (Credit: Stephanie Thomas)

Fusion-Enabled Pluto Orbiter and Lander

Stephanie Thomas
Princeton Satellite Systems, Inc.
Plainsboro, NJ

Amount: up to $500,000
Length of Study: 2 years

Description

The Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) concept provides game-changing propulsion and power capabilities that would revolutionize interplanetary travel. DFD is based on the Princeton Field-Reversed Configuration (PFRC) fusion reactor under development at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

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Alan Stern Auctions Off Car to Benefit Lowell Observatory

Alan Stern with his Nissan. (Credit: Lowell Observatory)
Alan Stern with his Nissan. (Credit: Lowell Observatory)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The historic Nissan 350Z that Dr. Alan Stern drove while leading the New Horizons mission to Pluto will be auctioned this month. The sale will benefit Lowell Observatory, the place where Pluto was discovered, with proceeds going to support Lowell’s mission of scientific research and education. Bids will be accepted from December 15-24 on eBay, and the winner will not only enjoy the car, but also a dinner with Stern.

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New Horizons Returns Last Bits of 2015 Pluto Flyby Data to Earth

This high-resolution image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The bright expanse is the western lobe of the “heart,” informally called Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)
This high-resolution image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The bright expanse is the western lobe of the “heart,” informally called Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — Having traveled from the New Horizons spacecraft over 3.4 billion miles, or 5.5 billion kilometers (five hours, eight minutes at light speed), the final item – a segment of a Pluto-Charon observation sequence taken by the Ralph/LEISA imager – arrived at mission operations at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, at 5:48 a.m. EDT on Oct. 25. The downlink came via NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia. It was the last of the 50-plus total gigabits of Pluto system data transmitted to Earth by New Horizons over the past 15 months.

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New Horizons Pluto Stamp Earns Guinness World Record

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern celebrates a Guinness World Record certificate on July 19 at U.S. Postal Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Dan Afzal, U.S. Postal Service)
New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern celebrates a Guinness World Record certificate on July 19 at U.S. Postal Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Dan Afzal, U.S. Postal Service)

WASHINGTON (USPS PR) — A 1991 Pluto: Not Yet Explored stamp traveled more than 3 billion miles on a spacecraft to the dwarf planet has earned the Guiness World Records achievement for the farthest distance traveled by a postage stamp. The stamp also served as NASA’s rallying cry to set the record straight for exploring Pluto.

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New Horizons Given Mission Extension, Dawn to Stay at Ceres

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)
Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Following its historic first-ever flyby of Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons mission has received the green light to fly onward to an object deeper in the Kuiper Belt, known as 2014 MU69. The spacecraft’s planned rendezvous with the ancient object – considered one of the early building blocks of the solar system — is Jan. 1, 2019.

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Alan Stern Awarded NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

BOULDER, Colo. , June 28, 2016 (SwRI PR) — The National Aeronautics and Space Administration today bestowed its highest honor, the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, to Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute. As principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, Stern led the team that returned remarkable imagery and other data from the Pluto system last summer, generating headlines worldwide and setting a record for the farthest world ever explored.

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Postal Service Releases Pluto—Explored! and Views of Our Planets Forever Stamps

Credit: USPS
Credit: USPS

NEW YORK CITY — Less than a year following NASA’s nine-year, three-billion plus mile New Horizons mission to explore Pluto, the U.S. Postal Service dedicated Forever stamps to commemorate the historic event, while dedicating a second set of stamps depicting NASA’s stunning images of our planets.

The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Pluto—Explored! and Views of Our Planets Forever stamps took place before a crowd of 500 at the world’s largest stamp show that only occurs in the United States once a decade, World Stamp Show-NY 2016. The show runs through Saturday. The public is asked to share the news on social media using the hashtags #PlutoExplored and #PlanetStamps. Visit  Our Planets Forever Stamps to view images of the stamps and background on the planets.

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Alan Stern Named to TIME100 List of Influential People

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SAN ANTONIO (SwRI PR) –TIME has named Dr. Alan Stern one of the 100 most influential people of the year. Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), serves as principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission, which made headlines worldwide when the spacecraft returned remarkable imagery of the Pluto system in July 2015 — the first high-resolution images ever taken of the icy planet and its moons. Stern was previously named to the TIME100 in 2007 after taking over as administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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New Horizons, New Shepard & Dawn Project Teams Vying for Collier Trophy

NASA’s New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)
NASA’s New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Washington, DC, February 2, 2016 (NAA PR) – The National Aeronautic Association announced today that nine aerospace projects and accomplishments will compete for the 2015 Robert J. Collier Trophy.

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AAS Awards Carl Sagan Memorial Award to Alan Stern

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AAS PR) — Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) and the Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, has been awarded the 2016 Carl Sagan Memorial Award by the American Astronautical Society (AAS).

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Honored for New Horizons Contribution

Closer Look: Majestic Mountains and Frozen Plains: Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 230 miles (380 kilometers) across. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)
Closer Look: Majestic Mountains and Frozen Plains: Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 230 miles (380 kilometers) across. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Aerojet Rocketdyne) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), has been recognized as part of the New Horizons spacecraft Pluto mission team by the National Space Club and Foundation, which named the team a winner of the 2016 Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy. The award is the Club’s highest honor, given annually to the individual or team that has provided leadership in groundbreaking space and aeronautics capability to the United States.

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New Horizons Team Receives 2016 Goddard Trophy

This high-resolution image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The bright expanse is the western lobe of the “heart,” informally called Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)
This high-resolution image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The bright expanse is the western lobe of the “heart,” informally called Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

WASHINGTON, DC  (National Space Club PR) — The National Space Club is pleased to announce The New Horizons Pluto mission team has won the 2016 Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, the Club’s highest honor given annually to the individual or team who has provided leadership in ground breaking space and aeronautics capability to the USA. The Award will be presented at the 59th Annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner, taking place at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Friday, March 11, 2016.

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