Press Release

NASA Ames Research Center Scientists Win Grants for Advanced Human Support Technologies

By SpaceRef Editor
March 1, 2004
Filed under , , ,

NASA has selected two scientists from NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., to receive grants to conduct research in advanced human support technologies.

In accordance with the president’s new space exploration program, NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research chose Michael Flynn and Dr. Stephen Ellis to develop technologies that would advance humans’ ability to conduct long-duration space flight missions safely. Flynn and Ellis are two of 22 researchers selected from across the nation.

“We are delighted that two prominent NASA Ames researchers, Michael Flynn and Stephen Ellis, have been selected to receive a grant from NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research,” said NASA Ames Research Center Director G. Scott Hubbard.  “We are very proud of this early contribution to the president’s vision for space exploration.”

Ellis’s project on Virtual Environment Interfaces for Remote Operation involves studying simulation and user interface issues for small free-flying vehicles that may be used to inspect a spacecraft for damage while in orbit.

“People have been using virtual environments for remote operations for many years, yet there are few operational examples of such interfaces,” said Ellis. “This project will help NASA advance the system and improve virtual environment user interfaces by establishing performance criteria and providing high graphics.”

NASA researchers use virtual environments (VE) because of their lower mass, lower power requirements, and reduced volume. Equipped with sufficient dynamic and visual accuracy, VE also can be a great training tool. Using VE, astronauts can rehearse extra- vehicular activities (space walks) during repair missions and practice experiments requiring maximum precision while working in very restricted time frames.

Flynn’s proposal addresses the development of a water recycling system called the Direct Osmotic Concentration System (DOC). DOC separates salt and water from wastewater and purifies human liquid wastes, such as urine and non-potable water, into water that is safe to drink.

NASA’s goal is to develop a low-weight, -power and -volume resupply system that will have a significant impact on the ability of humans to conduct long-duration space flight missions safely.

“Water composes 87 percent of all chemical and physical requirements to keep an astronaut alive in space,” said Flynn. “Providing the capability to recycle water with no resupply requirements may potentially reduce the costs of the missions by reducing launch mass and will reduce their risk by providing self-sufficiency.”

Scientists believe versions of NASA’s DOC system will benefit not only astronauts in space, but also people on Earth. This technology has already been used to remove water from food products and to purify highly contaminated liquid wastes by removing salts and other chemicals.

NASA received 122 proposals in response to its March 2003 NASA Research Announcement. The proposals were peer reviewed by scientific and technical experts from academia, government and industry before selections were made. In addition to technical and scientific merit, selection criteria also included cost, relevance to NASA programs and feasibility of utilization by NASA.

For more information about space research, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.