Texas Tech University

Engineering Professor Earns NASA Funding Worth $500,000


W. Andrew Jackson

W. Andrew Jackson, a professor of Texas Tech University's Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, has earned a three-year, incremental grant worth $500,000 from the NASA Shared Services Center.

The grant allows Jackson to continue his work based on the promising prior results.

“What I mainly work on is biological treatment of space-based waste as pre-treatment for desalination to allow the water to be reused for drinking water,” Jackson said. “It's called closed-loop recycling.”

If all goes according to plan, the process will allow astronauts to reuse 99 percent of the water originally sent on a space mission, including possible missions to Mars.

astronaut with earth in background
photo credit: NASA

“We're trying to make a sustainable system so manned habitation in space becomes more cost effective, more reliable and more robust,” Jackson said. “A Mars mission is minimum three years. Three years' worth of water for a crew of six, you're talking about billions of dollars in water alone. It's not practical. You have to recycle, but recycling only saves you money if you're not sending as many consumables to do it. So, what we're trying to do is cut back on those consumables.”

Jackson has developed the technology over the past 16 years with Audra Morse, a former professor at Texas Tech who now works at Michigan Tech.