Friday, April 08, 2011

Does NASA do its coolest stuff on the side?

Some years ago, I saw a first-step proof of concept setup for the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) multi-mode plasma rocket engine at Johnson Space Center. It was basically a side project with minimal official backing, in part because JSC doesn't normally do propulsion. But that's where this concept started.
JSC doesn't normally do planetary landers, either, but engineers have cobbled together this cool-looking test vehicle for a future Moon lander. From the comments, this seems like another project that came out of the minds of dedicated space geeks and was just sort of tolerated by Center management. NASAWatch's Keith Cowing has been complaining for days not that something this interesting was ignored by JSC PAO. He may have a point.

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