On April 10, UTSA, along with Harvard, Purdue and the University of Connecticut, announced their partnership with NASA to begin building space habitats that can sustain human life on the moon and Mars. The four schools responded to a solicitation from NASA asking for help from multidisciplinary universities that could develop technologies to create these habitats. Dr. Arturo Montoya, an associate professor with dual appointments in the Department of Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, will lead UTSA in their portion of the project.
Montoya will join NASA’s Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats institute (RETHi) and recruit graduate and undergraduate engineering students to assist him with the research tasks of the project.
“Engineering students will participate in a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research environment that will allow them to gain knowledge in fields other than their major,” Montoya said.
The five-year-long mission will consist of testing and building processes to ensure that they can create the most optimal habitats possible for human life on places other than Earth. RETHi plans to create a cyber-physical prototype testbed of physical and virtual models to develop, deploy and validate different capabilities during the testing process. These plans will ensure human survival in these habitats.
Dr. JoAnn Browning, dean of the College of Engineering, expressed that UTSA’s involvement in this project is valuable to President Taylor Eighmy’s plans to expand UTSA’s presence beyond San Antonio.
“Our participation in efforts to map a reality of extraterrestrial habitation as part of this initiative helps to support President Eighmy’s vision for UTSA as a great multicultural discovery enterprise and being world-engaged,” Browning said.
UTSA and its STEM programs will receive a grant for their involvement in this project that will launch them into an atmosphere with more resources for research and professional networking for future projects.
“This grant will allow UTSA and its students to play a key role in solving the challenge of deep space habitation while building partnerships with NASA facilities, universities and industries,” Montoya said.