Propulsion systems that get their oomph from lasers, antimatter and other unconventional energy sources will be discussed when space transportation experts gather in Huntsville, Ala., next week.
NASA and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics will hold the 10th Annual Advanced Propulsion Research Workshop April 5-8 at the Bevill Conference Center. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will co-host the event, which was held in Pasadena in past years.
The opening speaker at this year's conference is Homer Hickam, a retired Marshall Center engineer whose life is portrayed in the hit movie "October Sky." The movie is based on Hickam's best-selling memoir, "Rocket Boys."
Arthur G. Stephenson, director of the Marshall Center, is the keynote speaker. Stephenson will discuss advanced propulsion research at Marshall, NASA's Lead Center for Space Transportation Systems Development.
The workshop provides a forum for advanced space propulsion researchers worldwide to exchange information and coordinate research and development efforts. Conference sessions cover a wide range of advanced propulsion technologies that are transforming science fiction to scientific fact, including: beamed energy propulsion, such as launching rockets to space on laser beams; antimatter propulsion, produced by the annihilation of protons and antiprotons to release more energy than any known reaction in physics; advanced electric propulsion, a highly efficient means to convert power into thrust by accelerating electrically energized particles -- or ions -- in space; space tethers, propellant-free space transportation; and solar sails, a thin, reflective structure propelled through space by sunbeams just as the wind pushes sailboats on Earth.
"Some propulsion concepts that previously belonged to the realm of science fiction are being developed to the point that they will become an engineering reality," said Dr. George Schmidt, chief of the Marshall Center's Propulsion Research and Technology Division. "Through research and technology development we're starting to realize significant advances in space transportation that could reduce the travel time for a round-trip mission to Mars from a year to only a few months, or make it possible to explore the boundaries of our solar system."
Marshall scientists and engineers on the cutting edge of technology development engage in what they term "wild and crazy" brainstorming sessions. Started last year, the sessions are designed to bring some of NASA's premier rocket scientists together in one room to share their ideas and visions for space travel of the future.
Some of the same technologies embraced by participants of the Marshall sessions are in the spotlight at next week's advanced propulsion conference, as space propulsion authorities convene to analyze the latest research in their field.
"The Marshall Center has a mission to lead U.S. space transportation efforts in the new millennium," said Schmidt. "We believe propulsion technologies that will make it possible and affordable to explore and develop the space frontier will be developed here at the Marshall Space Flight Center."
Marshall's Advanced Space Transportation Program is NASA's core technology development program for all space transportation. The program is paving the highway to space by developing innovative technologies to dramatically reduce the cost of getting to space.
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Note to Editors/News Directors: Interviews, photos and video supporting this release are available to media representatives by contacting June Malone of the Marshall Media Relations Office at (256) 544-0034. For an electronic version of this release, digital images, the Advanced Propulsion Research Workshop agenda or more information, visit Marshall's News Center on the Web: http://www.msfc.nasa.gov/news. For more information on the Advanced Space Transportation Program, visit its Web site: http://astp.msfc.nasa.gov.
The above story is based on materials provided by Marshall Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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