Iowa State University has landed a two million dollar NASA grant that may someday help rocket Americans to other planets. I-S-U’s Center for Nondestructive Evaluation uses ultrasound, X-rays and other advanced techniques to determine when various types of structures may be developing fatal flaws and cracks. Center director Dr. Bruce Thompson says NASA hired the team to put its ideas to use on space stations and spacecraft. Thompson says the idea is that “the space structure itself would be able to sense when some sort of degradation begins to occur and ultimately take some sort of corrective action, or in other words, to heal itself.”NASA wants I-S-U to help develop what’re called “ageless aerospace vehicles” which, like a living organism, could sense or “feel” potential problems and fix them, a vital ability for making manned missions to Mars — and beyond. Thompson says the technology wouldn’t just apply to future spacecraft, but to the shuttle and the International Space Station. He says they’ll also develop tools that astronauts can use to assess damage and repair it.The project is bringing into the fold I-S-U experts from several areas, including: materials science, engineering, physics, electrical engineering and computer engineering.
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