WEST 2014 Call for Solutions Deadline: January 15, 2014

WEST The Sustainable Silicon Valley call for solutions deadline has been extended to January 15, 2014. This is an opportunity to showcase your own sustainability solutions at the  WEST (Water, Energy, and Smart Technology) Summit/Showcase to be held on May 22, 2014 at Stanford University.

Last year’s finalists included several space-related ventures, such as AstroSolar, Spaceship Earth Mission Control, and International Centre for Earth Simulation. The 2014 call includes various problems that could benefit from space technology, such as “How will food be produced as climate worsens?” and “Clean Water Production and Deliver under condition of scarcity?”

Websites:

To Grow Where No One Has Grown Before

NASA's Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber.

Image Credit: NASA

One often comes across the saying ‘grow a plant, to save this planet’. However we’re now entering the future where the saying would be, ‘grow a plant off this planet, to save humanity’. You might not grasp the meaning at first but it is indeed quite profound. It’s the act that may save the human race from extinction several centuries from today. How? Well its quite simple, if one wants to make any planet even remotely habitable to humans, it is very essential to grow plants there first. Plants are going to be integral to closed habitats which we aim to build on the Moon, Mars and may be even Asteroids!

Scientists have been growing plants on the International Space Station for quite sometime now and that’s why we dare to accomplish this mission on other rocky planetary bodies. The wave has begun. You can condemn it, support it or just be a spectator to the beginning of the greatest endeavor of man; but you cannot ignore it. Here’s why: NASA is looking for Space Science enthusiasts from around the world to crowd source ground control experiments for their Plants on the Moon project.

One has the chance to be a part of something that may well go down in history; the image of a plant growing on the moon! Watch this space for more on how plants are going to affect Space travel and terraforming.

Also see: 

NASA Ames Sustainability Base wins 2013 GEELA Award

NASA Sustainability Base Scene3 CourtYard B

NASA Sustainability Base courtyard

NASA Ames Sustainability Base wins a 2013 GEELA Award for the category of Sustainable Practices or Facilities. The GEELA Program, which stands for Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Awards, is run by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA).

Introduction

NASA’s first sustainable space “settlement” is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. “Using NASA innovations originally engineered for space travel and exploration, the 50,000 square-foot, lunar-shaped Sustainability Base is simultaneously a working office space, a showcase for NASA technology and an evolving exemplar for the future of buildings.” (Ames website). Through a combination of NASA innovations and commercial technologies, Sustainability Base leaves virtually no footprint.

Background

In 2007, NASA held a ‘Renovation by Replacement’ (RbR) competition designed to replace antiquated and inefficient buildings with new, energy-efficient buildings. NASA Ames Associate Director, Steve Zornetzer was inspired by sustainability architect Bill McDonough to apply the closed-loop thinking that NASA uses in space exploration to a green building on Earth.

Sustainability Base is one of the greenest Federal buildings ever constructed.   Although Sustainability Base isn’t a spacecraft, it was created with the vision that everything about the design would support both human and planetary well-being. As NASA Ames Center Director Pete Worden says, “This tiny planet we share is our only home.”

Power & Water

The building also generates generates most the power it needs through a variety of photovoltaics (solar panels), a highly efficient fuel cell and a small wind turbine. NASA spinoff Bloom Energy provided the advanced fuel cell.

NASA Sustainability Base 636106main_ACD12-0026-001_full

Arial view of NASA Sustainability Base

Sustainability Base uses uses 90 percent less potable (drinking) water than a traditional building of comparable size. NASA achieves this through use of a forward-osmosis water recycling system designed for use on the International Space Station.

 

Information and Smart Systems

Sustainability Base uses a sophisticated array of technology to go beyond being a “smart building” and move into the realm of the intuitive. The building can anticipate and react to changes in sunlight, temperature and usage, and will be able to optimize its performance automatically in response to internal and external change.

Those who work at Sustainability Base are an integral part of keeping the building sustainable. Each individual has a personal dashboard that shows their energy usage at any given moment and even suggests energy conservation activities, as simple as lowering the shades or opening windows.

NASA Sustainability Base |2013 GEELA Awards website

Project Possum at the Edge of Space

noctilucent cloud nlc31

Noctilucent clouds (credit: Project PoSSUM)

Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) seeks nearly invisible clouds at the literal edge of space. These noctilucent clouds may be important indicators of climate change. Yet to get a good look at them requires getting up close, and that requires a spacecraft.

Noctilucent clouds are of interest within the climate science community as sensitive indicators for what goes on in the upper-mid atmosphere. “If we can understand more about this, we can understand more about global changes,” according principle investigator Dr. Jason Reimuller, “how the upper atmosphere is coupled with the lower atmosphere.”

According to the Project’s website, the extremely cold temperatures and very low density of the mesosphere creates an environment where very small changes in the atmosphere can drive large changes in observed noctilucent cloud properties.  So by observing noctilucent clouds, we can learn a lot about the atmosphere as a whole.

Possum observatory

PoSSUMCam

PoSSUM uses imaging and remote sensing techniques from commercial, reusable suborbital space vehicles to address critical questions about the climate, and has developed its own instrumentation. PoSSUM Observatory obtains high-altitude imagery and remote sensing data, and capture mesoscale phenomena in the atmosphere or on the ground. It also includes LiDAR and thermal mapping capabilities and can be readily integrated on-board suborbital spacecraft. The PoSSUM Aeronomy Laboratory contains Mesospheric Aerosol Sampling Spectrometer (MASS), Mesosphere Clear Air Turbulence (MCAT) and wind probe components.

Sounding rockets aren’t good enough. They aren’t in the neighborhood for long enough, and it is difficult to get high quality images as well as collateral atmospheric measurements such as temperature and pressure. So PoSSUM is designing its 2015 campaign experiment around the XCOR Lynx for a delpoyment to either Fairbanks, AK or Kiruna, Sweden

PoSSUM-Aeronomy-Laboratory

If you are interested in flying an experiment on a PoSSUM flight, they also have a Possum Guest Experiment facility.

Website: Project PoSSUM

NASA Presentation: Planetary Sustainability for Survival and Profit

NRP event

Rose Grymes, Rama Nemani,  Stanley Herwitz,

The NASA Research Park (NRP) held “Planetary Sustainability for Survival and Profit”, a presentation and audience Q & A on the evening of December 3 at Moffett Field as part of its Exploration Lecture Series.

Speakers presented on several sustainability-related start-ups at the NASA Research Park, including Bloom Energy, Bio-Vessel (in stealth mode), and Oyokits. Panalists spoke about other endeavors such as the Space Portal,  NEX, a warehouse and collaboration platform for Earth data, the UAV Collaborative, and the Smart Energy Enterprise Development Zone (SEEDZ).

Dr. Rose Grymes emceed the event and moderated a lively panel discussion. Dr. Daniel Rasky surveyed the growing field of space and sustainability. He mentioned the natural connection between space and sustainability by pointing out that Elon Musk has created both SpaceX and Tesla. Dr. Rama Nemani indicated how NEX makes vital data regarding climate change available. He mentioned how the typical scientist will spend 80% of their time  with data and writing software and how NEX can reduce that time, and by implication that scientists can thus improve their impact.

NRP event

Donald Bray, Daniel Rasky, Rose Grymes

Dr. Stanley Herwitz discussed how unmanned ariel vehicles (UAVs) can be used to gain high resolution environmental data and showed beautiful video of a UAV flying over the Florida Keys. Mr. Donald Bray, discussed how the Smart Energy Enterprise Development Zone (SEEDZ) in Silicon Valley is producing synergies by integrating the various components of energy production and management.

Speakers/Panelists:

  • Dr. Rose Grymes, Office of the Center Director, Technical Lead, Sustainability, GSA Sustainability Fellow 2012-2013
  • Dr. Daniel Rasky, Director, NASA Ames Space Portal – NASA Planetary Sustainability Initiatives + Partnerships
  • Dr. Rama Nemani, Director, NASA Earth Exchange – NASA Supercomputer-driven Planetary Sustainability Programs
  • Dr. Stanley Herwitz, Director, UAV Collaborative – Investigating + Documenting Global Climate Change using UAVs
  • Mr. Donald Bray, Director, Smart Energy Enterprise Development Zone (SEEDZ) Initiative, Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network – Green Development/Green Jobs

 

Event webpage: NRP Exploration Lecture: Planetary Sustainability for Survival and Profit

Clearing the Air with inXitu

Mars Science Laboratory rover

Mars Science Laboratory

inXitu develops clean-tech air purifiers and portable material analyzers. The technology used in inXitu’s portable rock and mineral analyzer was chosen to fly on the Mars Science Laboratory rover (upper left). inXitu has been developing a low-power, passively-cooled, grounded-anode miniature x-ray source to be deployed in miniaturized instruments for surface and subsurface exploration of the solar system. inXitu is also developing solutions targeted for identification and analysis in the areas of explosives, pharmaceuticals, forensics, art and archaeological materials.

See full article.

ESA Closed Loop Life Support

new melissa loop

MELIiSSA loop

The European Space Agency’s MELIiSSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) research program “aims to develop the technology required for a future biological life support system for long term manned space missions.” In fact, MELISSA claims to go “further than other recycling systems used on Mir or the International Space Station which purify water and recycle exhaled carbon dioxide”, by attempting to “recycle organic waste for food production.”

See full article.

Flywheels: Clean Energy Storage?

Flywheel2

Flywheel2

A little known fact is that NASA has a flywheel program. The international Space Station (ISS) is periodically in the Earth’s shadow, so that its solar arrays do not work all of the time. A form of energy storage is required in order to operate the ISS while eclipsed and during peak loads. At one time, NASA had considered using flywheels to store electrical energy on the space station. Like many other NASA programs, the flywheel program has seen better days, but the technology still exists. Much of the research had centered around Glenn Research Center.

See full article.