. "4 Additional Observations." Report of the Workshop on Biology-based Technology to Enhance Human Well-being and Function in Extended Space Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1998.
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Report of the Workshop on Biology-based Technology to Enhance Human Well-being and Function in Extended Space Exploration
the stated design criteria. As a follow-up activity, the proposed concepts could be compared with conventional systems using a set of figures-of-merit (e.g., risk level, mass, cost).
Once NASA defines the system requirements, a system optimization process could be used to determine the most effective number of humans for a long-term mission and allocate the functions to be performed by them. Several subsystems incorporating biology-based concepts and elements to enhance human well-being or capabilities could be defined for Mars surface exploration missions. These configurations could be included in the systems engineering and optimization process to identify the most promising combinations offering the greatest leverage.
Much of the current activity in the research areas outlined in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 is taking place outside the fields of aeronautics and space science. In biology and some areas of biology-based technology, the state of the art is advancing rapidly and could offer substantial benefits in HEDS missions if transferred and adapted as appropriate. Therefore, it is important that NASA remain abreast of developments in relevant fields.
At present, NASA's technology watch process is largely informal and decentralized. Individual researchers, like any other scientists, are expected to remain current in their own fields. But there is no formal, systematic mechanism to ensure that the myriad relevant areas and developments are monitored. Participants in both sessions of the workshop reported on here noted the importance of following up the identification of requirements with a systematic evaluation of all potential solutions, including innovative biology-based approaches. A number of participants suggested that NASA might benefit from organizing a formal technology watch of research advances in the biological sciences and innovations in biology-based technologies.
A technology watch requires the establishment of monitoring criteria, communication of these criteria within appropriate government agencies and to relevant universities and industries, monitoring for new developments, and assessments of the applicability of these developments for the identified uses. There are many ways to communicate with technology researchers and developers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), for example, maintains a technology watch through its extension services, which transmit information to and from end users of USDA products and services. Other possible mechanisms include routine contact with technology transfer offices in academia and industry, Internet searching and monitoring, publication in peer reviewed journals, formation of academic consortia, establishment of technical advisory committees, and regular workshops at scientific meetings.
If a formal technology watch were established, NASA would need to find a way to exchange information about its requirements quickly and effectively with key industries and academic experts and centers, which could then help identify solutions. NASA would have to define its problem areas, issues, and requirements at the appropriate (i.e., subsystem) level. To supplement a central technology-watch network, NASA employees might be encouraged to maintain technology watches and could receive credit for this activity. Increased emphasis on scholarly activities, including publication in peer-reviewed journals and presentations, might increase awareness of the state of the art.