Curiosity-led exploration has fundamentally changed the progression of human society. The “urge for exploration” is a universal and distinctive trait in human beings. It is often asked about why do we explore? George Mallory’s words on being asked why he wants to climb the Mount Everest, retorted, “Because it’s there,” have resonated well to justify the “why” questions of feats bordering lunacy or unreasonably ambitious (sometimes, we call it “pushing the boundaries!”). Why climb the Everest? Why explore the oceans? Why explore space?—are the “why” questions and the list is long. The desire for exploration has helped to explore the unknown of space, discover new worlds, improve life here on Earth, so much so that we are potentially at the cusp of becoming a multiplanetary species and AAC is making small contributions to this grandest vision for humankind. The future looks promising.
AAC concentrates on spacecraft and mission design concepts that may advance both robotic and human exploration of the Solar System in the next decades. AAC is led by Professor James M. Longuski and Professor Sarag Saikia in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University. AAC works closely with NASA H.Q., several NASA Centers, and industry on a variety of projects.
While we are working on a variety of advanced concepts projects and some of the ongoing research projects, mentioned below, would give a glimpse of our work:
Our alumni are pioneers and disruptors. One was instrumental in starting the CubeSat revolution. Some are renowned professors, and many are working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Centers, The Aerospace Corporation, and industry designing concepts, technologies, and missions to explore the Solar System. Our folks have worked on most outer planets Flagship missions, be it Galileo mission to Jupiter, Cassini-Huygens to the Saturnian system. Now, a few are working on the NASA’s Europa Clipper mission currently being designed at JPL to explore the Galilean moon Europa through a lander and a series of flybys while in orbit around Jupiter.
Ocean Worlds, like Europa, Enceladus, and Titan, are widely believed to harbor global sub-surface oceans and the potential for habitable environments, which makes these ocean worlds of prime interest in the search for life beyond Earth. No current state-of-the-art (SOA) mobility system (e.g. Mars Curiosity Rover) can operate in the rugged terrains of the ocean worlds. Funded by NASA, we are now now working on to develop and test an innovative and game-changing mobility (rover) concept for the exploration of surfaces of the ocean worlds—Europa and Enceladus—which could potentially enable NASA in the detection of extant life and habitability at multiple sites of scientific interest.
Recently, AAC worked with JPL on NASA’s Ice Giants Studies, which examined a wide range of mission architectures, flight elements, and instruments for a future mission to one or both of the ice giant planets, Uranus and Neptune. The Planetary Science Decadal Survey recommends sending a mission to Uranus or Neptune, referring to the ice giants as “one of the great remaining unknowns in the Solar System, the only class of planet that has never been explored in detail.
We explore and we enable exploration.
Prof. James Longuski and Prof. Sarag Saikia awarded a contract by NASA to develop Advanced Spacecraft Technologies to Explore the Ocean Worlds for the Detection of Extant Life. As a part of the effort, AAC will develop the next-generation rover that can operate in the rugged terrains of the ocean worlds and is relevant to a future mission to one of the ocean worlds—Europa and Enceladus. (June 2017)
Prof. Sarag Saikia as the Principal Investigator led the assessment of “Aerocapture” in support of the NASA’s Ice Giant Mission Studies. Aerocapture is a game-changing technology that could enable trip times to be shortened, delivered mass to be increased or both (reduced cost). The team comprised of Prof. Sarag Saikia, Prof. James Longuski, AAC students and collaborators at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (May 2017)