Other efforts include building high-power in-space solar propulsion systems, oxygen recovery systems, thermal protection systems, robotics and optical communication systems, like the lasercom that will be tested on the space station.
The solar propulsion system, for example, includes a 31-foot deployable solar panel array, which NASA first tested on the ground last month.
Gazarik noted that today's state-of-the-art solar arrays aren't very efficient and NASA is looking to make changes so the arrays can be used to power spacecraft.
"This could change the way the nation operates and moves in space," he said.
In terms of robotics, Gazarik said the robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have been used to study Mars, needed 10 years to drive about 10 kilometers on the Red Planet.
Now NASA is working on robotic rovers that will be able to drive that far on Mars in a single week.
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