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Flying Cars get Uber Boost From Research Pact with NASA

Uber signs new pact with NASA on 'flying car'

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NASA, Microsoft
After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

In a bid to show its seriousness about taking its “flying car” concept off the ground, ride hailing company Uber has signed a second space act agreement with NASA.

The pact aims to further explore concepts and technologies related to urban air mobility (UAM) to ensure a safe and efficient system for future air transportation in populated areas.

Under this agreement, Uber will share its plans for implementing an urban aviation rideshare network, NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.

NASA will use the latest in airspace management computer modeling and simulation to assess the impacts of small aircraft – from delivery drones to passenger aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capability – in crowded environments.

This is NASA’s first such agreement specifically focused on modeling and simulation for the UAM operations.

Uber
Uber (Wikimedia Commons)

NASA’s definition of “urban air mobility” is a safe and efficient system for vehicles, piloted or not, to move passengers and cargo within a city.

Uber’s first Space Act Agreement with NASA, which was signed in November 2017, was a general statement of an intent to collaborate, The Verge reported.

“NASA is excited to be partnering with Uber and others in the community to identify the key challenges facing the UAM market, and explore necessary research, development and testing requirements to address those challenges,” Jaiwon Shin, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said in a statement.

“Urban air mobility could revolutionise the way people and cargo move in our cities and fundamentally change our lifestyle much like smart phones have,” Shin said.

At its research facility at the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport, NASA will use the data supplied by Uber to simulate a small passenger-carrying aircraft as it flies through DFW airspace during peak scheduled air traffic.

Also Read: NASA Blasts off Mars Lander, InSight

Analysis of these simulations will identify safety issues as these new aircraft take to the air in an already crowded air traffic control system.

“The new space act agreement broadening Uber’s partnership with NASA is exciting, because it allows us to combine Uber’s massive-scale engineering expertise with NASA’s decades of subject matter experience across multiple domains that are key to enabling urban air mobility, starting with airspace systems,” said Jeff Holden, Uber’s Chief Product Officer.

Uber believes that urban air transportation has the potential to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground and a network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically (called VTOL aircraft for Vertical Take-off and Landing, and pronounced vee-tol), could enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities. (IANS)

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NASA Explore Technology To Build Future Homes Made of Fungi For Moon, Mars

Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat

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NASA
Keeping that in mind, the myco-architecture project out of NASA Ames Research Center in California is prototyping technologies that could "grow" habitats on the Moon, Mars and beyond out of life - specifically, fungi and the unseen underground threads that make up the main part of the fungus, known as mycelia. Pixabay

Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well.

Creating a livable home for future astronauts means doing more than growing a roof to go over their heads. Astronauts will need to have all their basic needs met, just like on Earth, and face the additional challenges of living in a harsh environment on a distant world, the US space agency said in a statement.

Keeping that in mind, the myco-architecture project out of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California is prototyping technologies that could “grow” habitats on the Moon, Mars and beyond out of life – specifically, fungi and the unseen underground threads that make up the main part of the fungus, known as mycelia.

“Right now, traditional habitat designs for Mars are like a turtle – carrying our homes with us on our backs – a reliable plan, but with huge energy costs,” said Lynn Rothschild, the principal investigator on the early-stage project.

“Instead, we can harness mycelia (vegetative part of a fungus) to grow these habitats ourselves when we get there”. Ultimately, the project envisions a future where human explorers can bring a compact habitat built out of a lightweight material with dormant fungi that will last on long journeys to places like Mars.

Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat – all while being safely contained within the habitat to avoid contaminating the Martian environment.

Mycelia are tiny threads that build complex structures with extreme precision, networking out into larger structures like mushrooms.
With the right conditions, they can be coaxed into making new structures – ranging from a material similar to leather to the building blocks for a Mars habitat.

NASA
Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well. Pixabay

That last layer of mycelia is what organically grows into a sturdy home, first activated to grow in a contained environment and then baked to kill the lifeforms – providing structural integrity and ensuring no life contaminates Mars and any microbial life that’s already there. Even if some mycelia somehow escaped, they will be genetically altered to be incapable of surviving outside the habitat, said NASA.

Mycelia could also be used for water filtration and biomining systems that can extract minerals from wastewater – another project active in Rothschild’s lab – as well as bioluminescent lighting, humidity regulation and even self-generating habitats capable of healing themselves. And with about 40% of carbon emissions on Earth coming from construction, there’s an ever-increasing need for sustainable and affordable housing here as well.

ALSO READ: 5G Smartphones Priced Around $150 To Be Unveiled By End of This Year: Huawei President

The harsh environments of the Moon and Mars will require new ways of living – growing homes instead of building them, mining minerals from sewage instead of rock. “But by turning to the elegant systems of our own natural world, we can design solutions that are green and sustainable. Whether on distant worlds or our own ever-changing Earth, fungi could be what brings us boldly into the future,” said NASA. (IANS)