The concept of tractor beams, i.e. the technology that enables the trapping of objects using laser beams isn't an unheard one, only it has been fictional. But, scientists at NASA are already trying to make it for real, and they have a funding to research it. These scientists have been asked to study the concept of remotely capturing planetary or atmospheric particles and delivering them to a robotic rover or orbiting spacecraft for analysis. According to an official mention on the NASA website, three of its scientists, attached to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. – Principal Investigator Paul Stysley and team members Demetrios Poulios and Barry Coyle have been backed by a funding of $100,000 by the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT).

NASA mission

NASA mission

As a part of the research, the three scientists will be required to study three experimental methods, which would help them in collecting the particles and then transporting them using laser light to an instrument, which is like a vacuum that uses suction to gather and transport dirt in a bag. It is this instrument, which will then study the material in detail. The Phase-1 of the entire process will have the scientists gauge the state of the technology first, which would then decide which of the existing three technologies will best suit their research. This particular move by NASA to trap objects in space is not the first. Several initial attempts have been made, like the one involving the use of aerogel in 1999, or the one where Curiosity was used to get in samples. These methods, although successful were held back because of their high costs and limited range. 

Publish date: November 3, 2011 9:12 am| Modified date: December 18, 2013 8:51 pm

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