Nautilus-X could be NASA's first manned deep-space explorer

As usual, the difference between sci-fi and reality is striking, but despite its unsexy appearance, the Nautilus-X is NASA's first take on a manned space exploration vehicle destined for other planets.

Before we go any further, I feel like it's important to equate you with what Nautilus-X stands for, because it's possibly the most awkward acronym ever. According to NASA's Technology Applications Assessment Team (or TAAT), Nautilus-X is an acronym for "Non-Atmospheric Univeral Transport Intended for Lengthy United States X-ploration." So there you go. Anyway, now we can move on.

You might not mind the gangly and jumbled look of the Nautilus-X if you think the ISS is as lovely as I do, and the spaceship concept certainly does exhibit a not entirely unpleasant utilitarian minimalism. The craft is designed to support a crew of six in deep space for anywhere between one month and two years at a stretch. It's got an integrated centrifuge to provide artificial gravity for its occupants, and the habitation modules are mostly inflatable.

nautilusx1.jpg

In some configurations, Nautilus-X comes with little baby spaceships and landers, like shuttlecraft or those pod-things from 2001. The propulsion system is completely modular, and can be swapped out depending on where Nautilus-X is headed. It can dock with the ISS, and would only cost a modest $3.7 billion over 64 months to build.

Despite how much sense it makes for Nautilus-X to look the way it does, I have to wonder how much it would cost NASA to bolt on some badass plastic fairings to give this thing a pointy nose and rakish (albeit utterly useless) wings, and how it would be exponentially worth it in terms of PR and inspiring the imaginations of space geeks like me.

SpaceRef, via io9

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