HOUSTON, Texas (PNN) - April 10, 2017 - It sounds like something out of science fiction - a vacuum airship filled with empty space, which will soar above the thin atmosphere of Mars.
But NASA is actually putting money into investigating the idea - as well as researching an artificial gravity chamber for spacecrafts.
The space agency signed off on 22 early stage technology projects this week as part of the 2017 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) portfolio of Phase I concepts.
If they’re found to be workable, the space agency will allocate more research funding.
Writing about the vacuum airship, NASA says, “This concept is similar to a standard balloon, whereas a balloon uses helium or hydrogen to displace air and provide lift, a vacuum airship uses a rigid structure to maintain a vacuum to displace air and provide lift.
“Mars appears to have an atmosphere in which the operation of a vacuum airship would not only be possible, but beneficial over a conventional balloon or dirigible. Through a more in-depth analysis of the vacuum airship model, it can be shown that the vacuum airship may theoretically carry more than twice as much payload as a modeled dirigible of the same size, a 40-meter radius, in the Martian atmosphere.”
Each of the 22 early stage projects will get $125,000 of funding over nine months.