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Indian-origin Scientist Selected for NASA’s Pioneering Programme

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New York: An Indian-origin scientist’s proposal has been selected for NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) programme — an initiative that invests in transformative architectures through the development of pioneering technologies.

Ratnakumar Bugga from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is among 13 other researchers who will be awarded nearly $100,000 for nine months to support the initial definition and analysis of their concepts, the US space agency said in a statement on Saturday.

If the basic feasibility studies are successful, awardees can apply for phase-two awards, valued up to $500,000 for two additional years of concept development.

Bugga’s concept is titled “Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion.”

The India-born scientist who has PhD in electrochemistry from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, is currently involved in the development of low temperature lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and in the ultra-low temperature Li primary batteries for Mars probes.

He leads a task force responsible for demonstrating the technology readiness of lithium-ion batteries for Mars missions.

Bugga was the task manager for the Mars Exploration Rover Thermal, Rover and Lander batteries.

Other selected concepts include a proposal for reprogramming micro-organisms that could use the Martian environment to recycle and print electronics and a two-dimensional spacecraft with ultra-thin subsystems that may wrap around space debris to enable de-orbiting.

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Koch to Set Record for Longest Spaceflight by Woman, Will Spend 328 Days in Space

"One month down. Ten to go," Koch wrote Wednesday on Twitter. "Privileged to contribute my best every single day of it"

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astronaut, longest spaceflight, record
FILE - In this April 8, 2019, photo made available by NASA, astronaut and Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Christina Koch works on U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. VOA

A female astronaut is due to set a record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, the U.S. space agency said Wednesday, the same astronaut who was to have been in the first all-female spacewalk scrapped over lack of a right-sized spacesuit.

Astronaut Christina Koch, who completed the space walk with a man instead of a female colleague last month, will remain in orbit on board the International Space Station until February, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said.

Part of NASA’s study of the effects of long spaceflights on the human body, Koch will spend 328 days in space.

The 40-year-old astronaut has been in orbit since last month.

“One month down. Ten to go,” Koch wrote Wednesday on Twitter. “Privileged to contribute my best every single day of it.”

astronaut, longest flight
FILE – U.S. astronaut Christina Koch, member of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), looks on prior the launch of Soyuz MS-12 space ship at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, March 14, 2019. VOA

In late March, NASA canceled what would have been the first all-female spacewalk with Koch and astronaut Anne McClain due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size for McClain.

The walk was would have occurred during the final week of Women’s History Month.

On board the orbiting space station, astronauts work on a range of experiments in biology, biotechnology, health, earth, space and other sciences.

The typical stay for astronauts is six months, NASA said.

“NASA is looking to build on what we have learned with additional astronauts in space for more than 250 days,” Jennifer Fogarty, a chief scientist for NASA’s Human Research Program, said in a statement.

longest spacecraft, women
Part of NASA’s study of the effects of long spaceflights on the human body, Koch will spend 328 days in space. Pixabay

Record holders

Astronaut Peggy Whitson holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, staying in orbit 288 days in 2016 and 2017, NASA said.

“It’s my honor to follow in Peggy’s footsteps,” Koch said in a video from the International Space Station, orbiting over 200 miles (322 km) above Earth.

ALSO READ: SpaceX Launches Second Supersized ‘Falcon’ Heavy Rocket, For the First Time Lands all Three Boosters

Of the more than 500 people who have traveled to space, fewer than 11 percent have been women. But Koch graduated from NASA’s 2013 class of astronauts that was 50 percent women.

The overall NASA record of 340 days, set in 2016, is held by astronaut Scott Kelly in an experiment to compare his physical and mental health to his identical twin Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth. (VOA)