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Nano technology adds new potential for NASA

10-22-2012 12:21 BJT

CCTV Correspondent Ginger Vaughn

A new study says in order for the U.S. to continue to lead the way in space exploration, NASA needs to invest in nano-technology. Experts say this field holds tremendous potential for improving space flight by making spacecraft lighter with smaller, more accurate sensors.

A study published by Rice University called “NASA’s Relationship with Nanotechnology: Past, Present and Future Challenges,” looks at NASA’s role in cutting-edge nanotechnology development over the past 15 years.

Science and technology experts at Houston’s Rice University say for NASA to remain a leader in space, it needs to invest in nanotechnology to make better, lighter spacecraft.

The "Nano" world is the world of molecules. One nanometer is just one-billionth of a meter, which compared to a meter is like the size of a marble compared to the size of the moon, says Kenneth Evans of Rice University.

Kenneth Evans, a research fellow at Rice University, said, “The best part of 'nano' in terms of applications is that you can make things very small, very light, very strong. A lot of the things we were thinking about with NASA is that a lot of the current technology is kinda of antiquated, we’re using the same shuttle were using 20 years ago. So moving beyond that and having a better shuttle means integrating new, transformative technologies."

While experts say nano-technology is the key for NASA’s future, this area of research along with NASA’s overall funding has been cut drastically. NASA is the only US federal agency to scale back investment in this area.

The U.S. government funds this research through a federal agency called “National Nanotechnology Initiative,” or NNI. Washington cut NNI’s budget in half from 2004 to 2007, falling from $47 million to $20 million where it stands today.

Kirstin Matthews, an author of the Rice University study, says a failure to do more basic research in nanotechnology poses a risk that the U.S. could lose its leadership role in space to other countries like China, Germany, France, Japan and Israel.  Matthews says each of these countries make better use of their research and development budgets.

Dr. Kirsten Matthews said,“We’re just hoping that nano-technology can help put NASA forward in the future. It’s not that we’re upset with NASA or don’t want it to exist, or think somebody else should do the job. We think the agency has so much potential and the interest to live up that potential.”

Matthews says NASA needs to encourage high-risk, high-reward nano-tech projects to support the future of U.S. space exploration, or the race to the stars.

 

Editor:James |Source: CCTV.com

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