Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Skunk Works for Space

Skunkworks, as we all know, is the legendary (and secret) unit of US aircraft manufacturer Lockheed responsible for developing advanced weapons, such as the Stealth aircraft and the U2 and SR-71 spyplanes. NASA too had its own Skunkworks, responsible for funding and researching novel and revolutionary ways of explore the universe. Called the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, the agency is the hotbed of out-of-this-world research.

As examples, here are a few experiments and researches that NIAC has been funding lately:

1. X-ray interferometry, which aims to observe objects, such as the horizon of a blackhole, with super-fine resolution.

2. Self-transforming robotic planetary exporers, the concept of which aims to develop robot with reconfigurable elements that can autonomously transform depending on the environment

3. Plasma Pulsed Power Generator, a high-density power source for propulsion devices of interplanetary spacecraft

4. Antimatter harvesting in space envisions harvesting the ultimate power source for long-term exploration

5. Antimatter driven sails for deep space, which if successful, will develop spacecraft that can travel up to 250 AU using only 30 milligrams of anti-hydrogen.

For more information, you can go to the NIAC site.

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