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“Much of the science performed at NASA borders on fiction. Their job is to bring it into reality. One team intimately familiar with this task at the space agency is called COMPASS. Since 2006, their job has been to take the most preliminary ideas for space exploration and mold them into real, executable plans. A few of those plans have come to fruition, some are currently being worked on, and many more have been abandoned. All, however, are bold visions of future NASA missions – simultaneously fascinating and inspiring.
Here are five of COMPASS’ coolest designs:
1. Mars Ascent Vehicle. You may have heard of the Mars Ascent Vehicle, or MAV, from Andy Weir’s book The Martian, but the idea was originally born from a COMPASS design in 2010. The basic plan is for a launch platform upon which rests a lightweight rocket. This rocket transports Mars samples from the planet’s surface into orbit, where they can be picked up by a waiting ship and returned to Earth. Subsequent considerations involve making a MAV that can be used to ferry astronauts from the planet’s surface. Some form of the MAV will undoubtedly be used should humans ever make it to the Red Planet.”
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