University Students Mine for Water at NASA’s Mars Ice Challenge

University Students Mine for Water at NASA’s Mars Ice Challenge

For humans to survive on other worlds, they’ll have to harness the resources – like water – that exist there. A recent competition held at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, aimed to find ways of doing just that. Dozens of students from seven U.S. universities traveled to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to see if their projects could extract water from simulated Martian subsurface ice.

The RASC-AL (Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkages) Mars Ice Challenge was a special three-day competition June 13-15 that focused on technology demonstrations for in-situ – or in place – resource utilization capabilities on Mars to enable long-term human survival. “Mars is really the holy grail in our generation of what we’re looking for,” said Shelley Spears, director of education and outreach at the National Institute of Aerospace, which administers the event.

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Watch footage from the NASA Mars Ice Challenge courtesy of NASA 360:

NASA 2017 OPSPARC Winners Put a New Spin on Webb Telescope Technology

Team Fiber Rockedit, the high school 2017 InWorld OPSPARC winners from the Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, focused on using NASA’s the James Webb Space Telescope Microshutter Array for fiber optic communications. Erik Fong, Atherton Mook, Hays Mook and Nick Perlaky, who are all sophomores from the Baylor School, were assisted by their college engineering mentor, Kelly DeRees, a sophomore studying materials science and engineering at Ohio State. Together they turned their vision into a virtual reality within the NIAUniverse, the virtual world universe developed and run by the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA). Erik, Atherton, Hays and Nick did their work for this contest as part of an after-school Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Team that is sponsored by Dr. Vince Betro.

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NIA News Release 2017-03: Top Ten 2017 NASA iTech Finalists Announced

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                        June 1, 2017


Timothy Allen
National Institute of Aeroapce, Hampton, Va.


NIA RELEASE: 2017-03

Top Ten 2017 NASA iTech Finalists Announced

WASHINGTON (June 1, 2017) — Innovators behind the top ten entries in NASA iTech’s latest call for ideas have been selected and invited to participate as finalists in the 2017 NASA iTech Forum. NASA iTech is a collaborative effort to find and foster innovative solutions that aim to solve challenges on Earth and also have the potential to solve some of NASA’s challenges for deep space exploration.

At the NASA iTech Forum, leaders from NASA and prospective stakeholders have the opportunity to evaluate the most promising ideas submitted by small and large businesses, universities, non-profits, U.S. government organizations outside of NASA and undiscovered inventors from across the U.S. Entrants outlined potential solutions within challenge focus areas including Autonomy, Big Data: Data Mining and Machine Learning, Medical Systems and Operations, and Radiation Protection and Mitigation. A fifth category, X-Factor Innovations: Solutions for Unspecified Future Challenges allows for entries that may not fit within another focus area, but clearly demonstrate the potential to fill a critical need for NASA and humans on Earth.

The top ten finalist’s presentations are scheduled on July 12 – 13 at the NASA iTech Forum, which will be held at the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Virginia in conjunction with NASA’s Langley Research Center’s Centennial celebration.

“Innovation is critical to developing the breakthrough technologies we’ll need to reach our space exploration goals, but we don’t have to tackle these challenges alone. We are discovering remarkable ideas and inventions in the commercial market from non-aerospace innovators that may also provide solutions to our technical challenges,” said Kira Blackwell, Innovation program executive in the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA Headquarters.

Teams representing the top three solutions­ selected at the end of the forum will receive special recognition during an awards ceremony on July 13 and will be available for press opportunities after the awards are announced. RSVPs for the 2017 NASA iTech Forum should be sent to Media wishing to attend should contact Gina Anderson at by July 10 to preregister.

The top ten NASA iTech Cycle 1 finalists are (in alphabetical order):

Entrant: Aesop Technologies, Newport News, VA
Aesop Nucleus
Challenge Area: X-Factor Innovations

Entrant: Audacy, Mountain View, CA
Innovation: Seamless and On-Demand Satellite Communications Architecture
Challenge Area: 
X-Factor Innovations

Entrant: Bitome, Boston, MA
Innovation: In Vivo Metabolism Monitoring by Miniaturized NMR Spectroscopy
Challenge Area: Medical Systems and Operations

Entrant: Context Medical, Santa Clara, CA
Innovation: Diagnostic Digital Biomarkers
Challenge Area: Medical Systems and Operations

Entrant: Fiplate, Las Vegas, NV
Innovation: Tissue Regeneration After Radiological and Acute Trauma in Space
Challenge Area: Radiation Protection and Mitigation

Entrant: Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA
Innovation: Autonomous Operations of Large-Scale Satellite Constellations and Ground Station Networks
Challenge Area: 

Entrant: PacSci EMC, Chandler, AZ
Innovation: Modular Architecture Propulsion System (MAPS™)
Challenge Area: 
X-Factor Innovations

Entrant: QuantumStack, Suffolk, VA
Innovation: Decentralized Global Computer Network
Challenge Area: 
Big Data

Entrant: Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children’s National Health System (Omniboros Team), Washington, DC
Innovation: Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) for Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Unmet Needs
Challenge Area: Autonomy

Entrant: University of Houston, Houston, TX
Biologically Inspired Adaptive Anti-Icing Surfaces
Challenge Area: X-Factor Innovations

NASA’s iTech is an initiative by NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist managed by the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in Hampton, Virginia.


Timothy Allen
National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.

Gina Anderson
NASA Headquarters, Washington


For information about the NASA iTech initiative, visit:

For information about NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist, visit:

For more information about the National Institute of Aerospace, visit



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