Under the leadership of Dr. John Cumbers, Dr. John Chachere, Dr. S. Pete Worden, and Luke Idziak, a team of dozens from the NASA Ames Offices of the Director, Exploration Technology, Science, and Engineering convened with representatives from Stanford, venture capital, and space businesses to assess synthetic biology applications applicable to NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge. The effort began with an intensive Integrated Concurrent Engineering (ICE) session and culminated in the delivery of a paper titled “Towards a Synthetic Biology Approach to Asteroid ISRU and Planetary Protection.”
BACKGROUND: Integrated Concurrent Engineering (ICE) is a design method that convenes broad teams in intensive, collocated design sessions. Under the right conditions, ICE accelerates design teamwork by a factor of five while generating and verifying more cross-cutting, creative design concepts. These capabilities make ICE ideal for quickly developing an interdisciplinary response to events, such as natural disaster and market disruption. NASA recently issued a Grand Challenge and short-fuse Request For Information (RFI) to assess asteroid mission concepts. Synthetic biology combines biological research and technology to construct biological systems for useful purposes, and presents numerous opportunities to enhance space missions. The ICE team at Ames developed and documented several mission concepts that use biological systems for In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), such as a plan for a cube satellite to deliver organisms that digest asteroid materials and produce biodiesel.
NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Various
TEAM: Nathan Aguirre (Hispanic College Fund), Aaron Berliner (Universities Space Research Association), John Chachere (Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies), John Cumbers (UC Santa Cruz), Bruce Damer (Digital Space), John Freeman (Intrinsyx Technologies), Rose Grymes (ARC), Luke Idziak (International Space University), Jim Keravala (Shackleton Energy Company), John Kunz (Stanford University) Christopher McKay (ARC), Peter Robinson (ARC), Henning Roedel (Stanford University), Derek Sears (Bay Area Environmental Research Institute), David Summers (SETI Institute), S. Pete Worden (ARC), Dennis Wingo (Skycorp Inc.), and Masaki Yamada (UC Santa Cruz)
Contact: John Chachere