NASA must reinvest in nanotechnology research, according to new paper

Oct 16, 2012

The United States may lose its leadership role in space to other countries unless it makes research and development funding and processes—especially in nanotechnology—a renewed and urgent priority, according to a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

The paper, "'s Relationship with Nanotechnology: Past, Present and Future Challenges," investigates how NASA has both guided and defunded cutting-edge nanotechnology development since 1996 at its own research facilities and in its collaborations with university scientists and laboratories. The research was conducted by a team at Rice that included Baker Institute science and technology policy fellow Kirstin Matthews, current Rice graduate student Kenneth Evans and former graduate students Padraig Moloney and Brent Carey. The paper sheds light on a broad field that holds tremendous potential for improving by reducing the weight of and developing smaller and more accurate sensors.

This area of research, however, saw a dramatic cutback from 2004 to 2007, when NASA reduced annual nanotechnology R&D expenditures from $47 million to $20 million. NASA is the only U.S. federal agency to scale back investment in this area, the authors found, and it's part of an overall funding trend at NASA. From 2003 to 2010, while the total federal science research budget remained steady between $60 billion and $65 billion (in constant 2012 dollars), NASA's research appropriations decreased more than 75 percent, from $6.62 billion to $1.55 billion.

The authors argue that the agency should restructure, refocus and strengthen its R&D programs.

"The United States currently lacks a national space policy that ensures the continuity of research and programs that build on existing capabilities to explore space, and that has defined steps for human and robotic exploration of low-Earth orbit, the moon and Mars," Matthews said. "With Congress and the president wrestling over the budget each year, it is vital that NASA present a clear plan for R&D that is linked to all aspects of the agency. This includes connecting R&D, with nanotechnology as a lead area, to applications related to the agency's missions."

The authors said that to effectively engage in new technology R&D, NASA should strengthen its research capacity and expertise by encouraging high-risk, high-reward projects to help support and shape the future of U.S. space exploration

"Failure to make these changes, especially in a political climate of flat or reduced funding, poses substantial risk that the United States will lose its in space to othercountries—most notably China, Germany, France, Japan and Israel—that make more effective use of their R&D investments," Matthews said.

Explore further: Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

More information: "NASA's Relationship with Nanotechnology: Past, Present and Future Challenges" paper: www.bakerinstitute.org/policyreport54

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA proposes $17.6 billion budget

Feb 05, 2008

U.S. space officials proposed spending $17.6 billion next year with a focus on the International Space Station and space shuttle programs.

Good and bad news comes with NASA’s 2012 budget

Dec 01, 2011

On November 14, President Obama signed an Appropriations bill that solidified NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2012. The space agency will get $17.8 billion. That’s $648 million less than last year’s ...

NASA budget will axe Mars deal with Europe: scientists

Feb 10, 2012

US President Barack Obama's budget proposal to be submitted next week for 2013 will cut NASA's budget by 20 percent and eliminate a major partnership with Europe on Mars exploration, scientists said Thursday.

NASA chief defends budget cuts

Apr 26, 2006

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin says budget cuts necessary to pay for future space flights may mean an end to some current space science projects.

Recommended for you

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

Apr 17, 2014

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

Wiring up carbon-based electronics

Apr 17, 2014

Carbon-based nanostructures such as nanotubes, graphene sheets, and nanoribbons are unique building blocks showing versatile nanomechanical and nanoelectronic properties. These materials which are ordered ...

Making 'bucky-balls' in spin-out's sights

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —A new Oxford spin-out firm is targeting the difficult challenge of manufacturing fullerenes, known as 'bucky-balls' because of their spherical shape, a type of carbon nanomaterial which, like ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...