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NASA is working with eight U.S. universities on new technology projects for deep space exploration, including the agency's journey to Mars, as part of the 2016 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge.

NASA has selected four universities to design habitat and science concepts that could be used by future deep space explorers. The teams will participate in the second eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge led by NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation.

The teams are from Oklahoma State University; University of Maryland, College Park; Ohio State University; and University of Bridgeport, Conn. The undergraduate students will design, manufacture, assemble and test their concepts and hardware. A panel of engineers and scientists will assess their progress at each stage of the competition. The National Space Grant Foundation will fund the cost of the teams' design development and their participation in testing next summer at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.

University of Wisconsin students topped two other university teams to win the 2011 NASA eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge - a competition to design and build a space habitat. The team will now take its inflatable space loft to NASA's annual Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) field test in Arizona in September. It will be tested as part of a simulated astronaut mission to an asteroid.

The three competing universities are (1) Oklahoma State University; (2) University of Maryland; and (3) University of Wisconsin. All three have been in a year-long design, build, and test curriculum that produced this product. It has been a great inspiration and learning experience for these teams. Please join us for the competition. NASA JSC will have each team set-up, deploy, evaluate, and take down 3 consecutive weeks.

Media coverage time slots:

- Oklahoma State (6-10 Jun 2011): 9 Jun (Thursday) 2:00 - 4:00 pm Media Event
- University of Maryland (13-17 Jun 2011): 16 Jun (Thursday) 2:00 - 4:00 pm Media Event
- University of Wisconsin-Madison (20-24 Jun 2011): 23 Jun (Thursday) 2:00 - 4:00 pm Media Event

Websites:

- X-Hab sites: 2011-X Loft : http://www.spacegrant.org/xhab/2011
- 2012: http://www.spacegrant.org/xhab/
- HDU Public site: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/analogs/hdu_project.html

NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation have selected university teams from Maryland, Oklahoma and Wisconsin as finalists in a competition to design, manufacture, assemble and test an inflatable loft.

NASA is challenging college students to design and rapidly develop prototype concepts for inflatable habitat lofts for the next generation of space explorers. The loft will be integrated onto an existing NASA operational hard-shell prototype habitat. The winning concepts may be applied to space exploration habitats of the future. "This competition gives these students the opportunity of a lifetime," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "They'll design and build new hardware. If their team wins, they'll get the chance to integrate their designs into a NASA hard shell habitat and see it field tested next summer."

The inaugural eXploration Habitat, or X-Hab, Academic Innovation Challenge finalists are: Oklahoma State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Maryland

The National Space Grant Foundation is pleased to announce the X-Hab Academic Innovation Competition. The challenge is for a senior- and graduate-level design course in which students will design, manufacture, assemble and test an inflatable loft that will be integrated onto an existing NASA-built operational hard-shell prototype.

In June of 2011, the NASA-Habitat Demonstration Unit Project will conduct a head-to-head competition for successfully designing and demonstrating an attachable inflatable habitat "Loft" concept, given a list of requirements for the design. Universities may collaborate together on a Project Team. Up to three project teams will be selected for funding. The head-to-head competition will determine the winner that will be awarded additional funds to integrate their design with the HDU-Lab during the August-September 2011 HDU-Hab/Lab integrated field testing.

NASA is inviting the public to choose an area in northern Arizona where explorers will conduct part of the annual Desert Research and Technology Studies, known as Desert RATS. "Desert RATS is an annual test where NASA takes equipment and crews into the field to simulate future planetary exploration missions," said Joe Kosmo, Desert RATS manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "We want the public to be a part of this."

From July 27 through Aug. 8, space enthusiasts can vote where to send the Desert RATS team, which includes engineers, scientists and astronauts. To cast your vote, visit: http://desertrats2010.arc.nasa.gov

The website features interactive panoramic images of lava, rocks and desert for the public to choose as the most interesting destination to explore. The location that receives the most votes will be announced Aug. 16. Astronauts will visit that site to perform field geology and collect rock samples.

NASA is challenging college students to design concepts for inflatable habitat lofts for the next generation of space explorers. The winning concepts may be applied to the exploration habitats of the future.

The X-Hab Academic Innovation Competition is a university-level challenge designed to encourage further studies in spaceflight-related engineering and architecture disciplines. This design competition requires undergraduate students to explore NASA's work to develop space habitats, while also helping the agency gather new and innovative ideas to complement its current research and development.