President Barack Obama is set to push a new vision for NASA on Thursday, outlining changes in the way we get to and from space. With the expected shift in policy on human space travel outlined in the 2011 budget and still evolving, scientists and researchers at the University of Houston are available to answer some of the many questions that are sure to follow. With a number of space-related centers on campus, UH is entrenched in various research projects related to the future of space exploration and colonization. The UH programs include the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA), Center for Advanced Materials (CAM), Institute for Space Systems Operations (ISSO), and the UH Space Physics Group.
Experts from each of these institutions are available to discuss the space program.
Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA)
SICSA is internationally recognized for its leadership in the field of space architecture and regarded as the leading academic center in the world for this kind of planning. With research that looks 15 to 30 years down the road, SICSA conducts research into requirements for human orbital and planetary missions, and develops practical concepts for habitats, structures and support systems to meet those needs. The organization also undertakes similar studies involving extreme environments on Earth. A unique research, design and teaching entity, the organization's mission is to plan and implement programs that will advance peaceful and beneficial uses of space and space technology. SICSA initiated the world's first Masters in Space Architecture degree-granting program, established in September 2003.
Center for Advanced Materials (CAM)
CAM deals with the practical aspects of energy generation with a focus on new materials development. CAM has extensive experience in new materials applications in space including advanced solar cells and micro fuel cells, and has designed, developed and deployed a primary payload on the Space Shuttle - the Wake Shield Facility - which was used to grow atomically ordered thin film semiconductors in the ultra-vacuum of space. Addressing the next 10 to 15 years in space exploration, CAM is working on such projects as ultra-high efficiency solar cells for the energy needed for working in space, new radiation protection materials for astronauts, and developing methods to manufacture huge solar cell arrays on the surface of the moon using materials from the lunar soil. This lunar regolith (the dust and rocks lying on the moon's surface) contains the raw materials needed to make solar cells, and the thin film solar cell technology is under development at UH. The realization of solar cells fabricated on the moon will not only yield an energy-rich environment for working on the moon and in space, but will also generate excess energy to send back to the Earth for terrestrial needs. CAM scientists have the experience and the research required in the planning for man to leave Earth and head to the moon and Mars.
Space Physics Group
The Space Physics Group at the University of Houston conducts original research in the areas of atmospheric electricity, atmospheric chemistry, electric spacecraft propulsion, space physics and aeronomy, and upper atmospheric physics. The space physics group provides instruction to UH students and provides a source of qualified, trained personnel to the space-oriented employers of the Houston area. Edgar Bering, UH physics and electrical computer engineering professor, is an expert on the northern lights, electric space propulsion for deep space human applications and heliophysics. Bering is engaged in research related to the design of sustainer engines for manned-Mars missions. He can also provide commentary on geomagnetic sub-storms (often referred to as "space weather"), fair weather atmospheric electricity and sprites.
Institute for Space Systems Operations (ISSO)
ISSO is the operating agency for the Houston Partnership for Space Exploration (HPSE) at UH and UH-Clear Lake (UHCL). The primary goal is to advance the economic and intellectual development of high-technology communities associated with UH/UHCL, NASA-Johnson Space Center (NASA-JSC), and the State of Texas. The research results can be viewed at http://www.isso.uh.edu.
ISSO enables UH/ UHCL faculty to pursue seed projects and multi-year research programs directly related to the primary mission of the NASA-JSC, which is to advance the exploration and development of space in the context of human space flight operations. In 2009 ISSO awarded more than $170,000 for ten new seed-grant projects to UH/UHCL faculty, and in 2008 UH/UHCL faculty reported more than $3 million in external funding for space-related research.
The primary activities of ISSO are the new Aerospace Cluster projects, the continuing Post-doctoral Aerospace Fellowship (PDAF) projects between UH/UHCL and NASA-Johnson Space Center, and the annual seed-grant projects. The PDAF program began in 1995. It and the Aerospace Cluster projects operate through a memorandum of understanding between JSC and the two universities through a Space Act Agreement. ISSO Director David Criswell is an expert on industrial development of the moon and the economic benefits to Earth, lunar-solar energy, lunar exploration and utilization.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston is a comprehensive national research institution serving the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. UH serves 37,000 students in the nation's fourth-largest city in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.