ESC Empowers Part 5: Developing the Future


This feature utilizes elements of NASA videos

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — When NASA once again sends astronauts to destinations beyond the orbit of Earth, it will need technologies that are currently only in their infancy—or have yet to be developed. The Engineering Services Contract, or “ESC,” has tasked Dr. Tracy Gibson and Dr. Scott Jolley with finding new and innovative ways to solve problems that could arise on crewed deep space exploration missions. 

The two primary elements of Gibson’s and Jolley’s research revolve around self-healing materials and surfaces that can show crews where damage has occurred, as well as the extent of this damage on their spacecraft.

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This feature utilizes elements of NASA videos

As NASA prepares to send astronauts to destinations located in deep space, these new technologies will be vital in ensuring the safety of astronauts who could be days away from the safe harbor of their home world.

Imagine if a micrometeorite were to damage a wire and that wire could then repair itself. What if debris were to strike a spacecraft bound for Mars? Now, what if instead of having an astronaut get into a spacesuit and enter the dangerous environment of space, they could remain safe inside their vessel knowing that the damage will repair itself?

Dr. Tracy Gibson holds up a test article of a material that could one day tell crews on deep space exploration missions the extent of damage to their spacecraft (from impacts) without having to go on a dangerous spacewalk. Photo Credit: Alan Walters /

Efforts are also underway to produce material that can tell the extent of damage and signal to the crew as to whether or not a risky deep space extravehicular activity is required.

It is these things that Gibson and Jolley are currently working on. Using scientific means and methods, the duo and their team strive to produce technology that is on the cutting edge of innovation. While AmericaSpace noted the science conducted to develop payloads and carrier equipment earlier in the tour, these elements highlighted the work that the ESC does to provide systems and services that, to date, only exist as prototypes. This foreshadowed what would take place on the last segment of our tour.

Stay tuned for the next segment of the ESC series, where we deal with advanced concepts and designs that, at present, exist only as theories.

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