NASA space concepts that turned out to be impossible to implement

(ORDO NEWS) — Five impressive concepts that withered in the bud due to the huge cost or technological impossibility of implementing these projects are presented below.

NASA space concepts that turned out to be impossible to implement 1Mobile Laboratory (MOLAB) / ©NASA

1. In the early 1960s, while preparing for the upcoming Apollo missions to the Moon, NASA considered various options for how astronauts could explore the lunar surface. Among the concepts was an ambitious mobile laboratory, MOLAB for short.

The large four-wheeled rover, in addition to providing mobility, was supposed to be a temporary habitat for astronauts and at the same time serve as a scientific laboratory.

A prototype was built and tested in the New Mexico desert, but at around 4 tons, the GM-built MOLAB was very bulky; getting it to the moon would not be easy or cheap. As a result, the prototype was handed over to the US Geological Survey, which used it to map mineral deposits and take soil samples.

NASA space concepts that turned out to be impossible to implement 2Engineers at work on a nuclear rocket in 1964 / ©NASA

2. From 1955 to 1973, the United States tried to develop a nuclear missile for use in long-range missions. The program has reached the penultimate stage – the creation of a nuclear engine for rocket aircraft (NERVA).

The second generation NERVA engine was built and tested on the ground, but the program was terminated prior to in-flight testing.

NASA space concepts that turned out to be impossible to implement 3Advanced Space Habitat Concept / ©Rick Guidice/NASA

3. After the success of the lunar missions, NASA turned its eyes to the prospect of creating extraterrestrial colonies. In 1975, the space agency offered experts and artists the opportunity to share their vision of what space colonies might look like.

As a result, bold concepts were developed, including space habitats in which 10,000 people could “work, raise families and live normal human lives.”

The ring-like habitats will mimic gravity, enabling the construction of traditional houses, monorails, trees, grass, reservoirs, and agriculture. It was hoped that some habitats might appear as early as the 1990s, but these ideas, while excellent, proved too technologically complex.

NASA space concepts that turned out to be impossible to implement 4Diagram showing the design of an interstellar probe / ©NASA

4. In 1988, NASA, together with the Universities Space Research Association, submitted a preliminary design for a probe to explore Alpha Centauri, located at a distance of 4.37 light years from Earth.

An uncrewed 440-tonne probe would take just 100 years to reach our nearest star system, but “several technologies need to be developed to make this mission possible,” the proposal’s authors acknowledged.

These include a “pulsed thermonuclear microexplosion drive” and a long life fusion reactor capable of generating 300 kW of power.

The probe’s reactor would also power its communications system, which would allow it to transmit data on the properties of the interstellar medium, the invisible features of Alpha Centauri, and more accurate astrometric data on the position, movement, and luminosity of stars.

NASA space concepts that turned out to be impossible to implement 5Orbital Sciences X-34 / ©NASA

5. The Space Shuttle seemed to be a road to the future. In an effort to take the program to the next level, NASA began to study updated concepts for a reusable space transportation system, which was done in the early 1990s.

These efforts culminated in the Orbital Sciences X-34, a prototype for low-cost reusable vehicle testing and suborbital flight experiments. The X-34 project was close to completion in 2001, but the program was canceled due to budget issues.

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