With free-flying robots and antimatter engines, NASA’s “wish list” doesn’t read like the typical lists of wants and desires you might receive from a loved one. Which is great, because if NASA was jonesing for Pokemon we’d be in trouble.
The free-flying robot mentioned above is called Mini AERCam, short for Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera, and would serve as an extra set of eyes for passengers aboard the ISS. It was tested for the first time back in the 90s (then called AERCam Sprint), although today’s version is leaner, meaner and more maneuverable. It’s also spherical and remote-controlled, so lightsaber training in space? We certainly cannot rule it out.
Fuel’s always been a big issue when it comes to interplanetary travel, and it’s no surprise that a new type of powerful rocket fuel be found on its wish list for the future. One tantalising example is hydrogen that’s been crushed by so much pressure that it becomes a solid metallic substance. This happens deep within Jupiter all the live ling day, but on Earth, not so much. Nevertheless, NASA hopes that further experimentation will reveal ways to keep the metallic hydrogen in a solid state even after the pressure is released, at which point they might have their powerful rocket fuel. Maybe.
What’s the matter
Antimatter discussions on Gizmodo are nothing new, but nevertheless NASA scientists are still light-years away from understanding—let alone bottling—this fascinating stuff. With our present understanding of antimatter, only tiny quantities can be captured during particle accelerator experiments (e.g. the LHC). Even if we could capture a large enough amount to travel to, say, Alpha Centauri, it would still take a long, long time to get there. We should still try!
Lofty goals aside, let’s stay optimistic here—this is a wish list! [New Scientist]