By Matthias Petry
Have you ever wondered what Captain Kirk's bathroom looked like or how Luke Skywalker managed to brush his teeth?
"Starship 2040" might give you an idea.
"Starship 2040" is an exhibit that showcases some of NASA's technologies, explains Martin J. Jensen, NASA public affairs officer and USU alumnus.
It is a full-sized, hands-on model of what a commercial spaceliner might look 40 years from now. The idea is to present the organization's visions of a space-age future based on concepts and technologies that its engineers are currently working on.
Though not a blueprint for a specific future vehicle, it is supposed to be a glimpse into a very possible future, where traveling and working in space might become as common and affordable as air traveling nowadays.
"Starship 2040 won't necessarily ever become a vehicle, but it represents the ideas the NASA is working on right now to help people understand the importance of human space flight and the benefits we receive from it," Jensen says.
When you enter "Starship 2040," the first thing you see is the cockpit and its bright control panel, illuminated by numerous red, yellow and green buttons and displays. While today's airplanes usually need two or more persons to be operated, the NASA's idea of future spaceships suggests that there will be only one person monitoring the cockpit. The computer, which is even supposed to figure out and fix problems on its own, will do most of the work.
Unlike in science-fiction movies such as Star Trek or Star Wars, there is no kind of artificial gravity in real-life spaceships. Therefore the spaceship's interior and its devices have to be adapted to function in microgravity.
"Living and working in space presents many different challenges. Having no gravity, just a simple task as going to the bathroom or washing your hands becomes a challenge. So you have to adapt and create different things to make the simple everyday tasks on earth possible," Jensen says.
The bathroom sink for example consists of a glass hemisphere on the wall with two glove-like devices attached on the inside, so you can wash your hands without having the water floating around in the whole ship.
As you proceed to the last part of your "Starship 2040" experience, the engineering section, there is a whole wall covered with pictures and explanations of all different kinds of futuristic engine technologies, e.g. Antimatter Propulsion, Plasma and Solar Sails or Electrodynamic Thether Propulsion. Although these names sound as if they had been invented by Gene Roddenberry or George Lucas, "these are all current technologies that NASA has worked on and is working on right now to make living and traveling in space possible," Jensen explains.
So far, "Starship 2040" has been touring the country for more than two-and-a-half years, visiting more than 25 states. It is on the patio behind the Taggart Student Center and can be visited through 5 p.m. Wednesday.