This past fall, Jim gave some suggestions to a FIRST Lego League team preparing for the 2018 Into Orbit robotics competition. These ‘Lunar-tics,’ researched the biological effects of space radiation on human astronauts and pitched an interesting proposal.
The nine Lunar-tics team members, all ages 10-12 from the central NJ and eastern PA area, studied several different materials NASA is currently testing to protect humans in space. In the process, they discovered that BNNTs (boron nitrate nano tubes) combine with other materials to increase their strength and radiation-shielding properties. The Lunar-tics suggested that combining BNNTs with Demron, a polymer already being used as a radiation shield, would enhance current protective technology to provide astronauts with more robust personal radiation shields in space.
As part of their project feedback process, the Lunar-tics further discussed their proposal with Roy Whitney, President and CEO of BNNT, who helped refine the project with specific suggestions on how BNNT could be incorporated into a spacesuit design. The Lunar-tics also conferred with Sean MacLeod, an engineer from Collins’ space division, who found their idea so intriguing that he followed up with a lead NASA engineer for spacesuit research and development. MacLeod requested NASA to investigate a BNNT-Demron combination for possible practical applications.
Having heard the Lunar-tics’ proposal firsthand, Jim seconded MacLeod and believe their idea is worthy of further consideration. Lunar-tics, we look forward to seeing whether Demron and BNNTs can be the solution to better shielding our astronauts in space!