June 12, 2016
VC Funding Of Space Tech Soars

Once upon a time NASA was on the cutting edge of space technology development. That's so 20th century. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are on the cutting edge now: VCs Invested More in Space Startups Last Year Than in the Previous 15 Years Combined.

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and VCs are moving the needle today. This is very good news. Since the Apollo program NASA has had no big success with rockets. The Space Shuttle was a bad design. Other stuff was just slow incremental improvements. Rockets that land themselves and satellites that collect enormous amounts of data for an assortment of commercial applications are changing the game.

However, we still a long way away from serious space colonization. We need a great many enabling technologies to make a Mars colony viable. Most notably, we need really big strides in biotech to enable small scale production of a large assortment of drugs, textiles, and structures in a Mars colony. We need economical small scale manufacturing (either with microorganisms or nanobots) to replicate much of the complexity of products that can be manufactured on planet Earth.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2016 June 12 09:21 PM 

David Gobel said at June 14, 2016 8:30 AM:

Your wish is our command:


NASA has joined forced with the nonprofit Methuselah Foundation’s New Organ Alliance to sponsor The Vascular tissue Challenge in a quest to go where no “man” has successfully gone before, by offering a $500,000 prize to be divided among the first three teams that successfully create thick, metabolically-functional human vascularized organ tissue in a controlled laboratory environment.

“The humans who will be our deep space pioneers are our most important resource on the Journey to Mars and beyond,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “The outcome of this challenge has the potential to revolutionize healthcare on Earth, and could become part of an important set of tools used to minimize the negative effects of deep space on our future explorers.”

The vascularized, thick-tissue models created as a result of this challenge will function as organ analogs, or models, that can be used to study deep space environmental effects, such as radiation, and to develop strategies to minimize the damage to healthy cells during deep space missions, as well as used in pharmaceutical testing or disease modeling here on Earth. In addition, it is hoped that the challenge could help accelerate new research and development in the field of organ transplants.

“When the Wright Brothers discovered how to control aircraft during flight for aviation in the early 1900s, there was an explosion of progress after this key barrier was removed,” added Dave Gobel, chief executive officer of the Methuselah Foundation. “In the same way, once the ‘vascularization limit’ is solved, via the NASA Vascular Tissue Challenge, there inevitably will be an historic advance in progress and commercialization of tissue engineering applications to everyone's benefit.”

According to the agency, those entering the competition will be required to produce vascularized tissue that is more than 1 centimeter (.39 inches) thick and maintains more than 85% survival of the required cells throughout a 30-day trial period. Teams must demonstrate three successful trials with at least a 75% success rate to win an award. In addition to the laboratory trials, teams also must submit a proposal that details how they would further advance some aspect of their research through a microgravity experiment that could be conducted in the U.S. National Laboratory on the International Space Station.

The Vascular tissue Challenge new challenge was announced as part of White House Organ Summit, which highlighted efforts to improve outcomes for individuals waiting for organ transplants and support for living donors. Meanwhile, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the International Space Station US National Laboratory, has announced a follow-on prize competition in partnership with the New Organ Alliance and the Methuselah Foundation that will provide researchers the opportunity to conduct research in microgravity conditions. CASIS will provide one team up to $200,000 in flight integration support costs, along with transportation to the ISS National Laboratory, support on station and return of experimental samples to Earth.

CASIS also announced the winners of the $1 million 3-D Microphysiological Systems for Organs-On-Chips Grand Challenge.The Vascular Tissue Challenge prize purse is provided by NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Centennial Challenges, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, is NASA’s citizen inventor prize program that invites the nation to help advance the technologies that will enable us to go to Mars and beyond, as well as improve life on Earth. The New Organ Alliance, which is administering the competition on behalf of NASA, is a nonprofit organization focused on regenerative medicine research and development to benefit human disease research and tissue engineering

For information about the Methuselah Foundation’s New Organ Alliance, official challenge documents, rules and schedule of events, visit:https://neworgan.org/vtc-prize.php For more information about the Vascular Tissue Challenge, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/vtchallenge

Mark Bahner said at June 21, 2016 8:40 PM:

What energy source are you thinking we'll use?

kenneth t. kendrick said at June 24, 2016 11:42 AM:

I don't favor a mars colony.I favor a mars space station.Martian gravity is only 1/3 that of earth.Marsnauts would suffer a degradation of their physical abilities in an extended stay on the martian surface.A space station could provide artificial gravity.The station would have ports for excursion vehicles.They could land anywhere on the mars surface.Promoting the exploration of mars.Mars itself would provide material for the station.Water,regolith,etc.A power station could be set up on the surface of mars for the production of rocket fuel from the atmosphere or from water.

STH said at June 26, 2016 12:02 AM:

I don't favor a mars colony. I favor a mars space station. Martian gravity is only 1/3 that of earth. Marsnauts would suffer a degradation of their physical abilities in an extended stay on the martian surface

This is an interesting thought. Assuming that it's possible to make Mars habitable, human beings may cleave into 2 different species if they opt to live permanently on Mars, because the environments and the selection pressures between Earth and Mars are so different. While there may be great resistance to this taking place, it could wind up becoming an inevitable consequence. As our society and technology evolves, so too does our species.

David Friedman said at July 4, 2016 12:45 PM:

The essential breakthrough for space colonization is a drastic reduction in the cost of getting stuff out of Earth's gravity well. Possible ways of doing it include a space elevator or a large increase in the strength to weight ratio of launch vehicle materials, possibly due to nanotech. I do not expect either in the next couple of decades.

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