Students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took top honors in NASA’s first Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge.

The challenge: To increase the lift-to-drag ratio on the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) in ways that could potentially help NASA land heavier payloads. The HIAD inflatable device is designed to slow down a spacecraft upon atmospheric re-entry to Earth or other planets.

The University of Illinois team, led by professor Zachery Putnam, received first place for using a combination of moveable mass and a cable system to morph the HIAD shape and provide direct lift control.


Also: Sign up for the 'Create the Future' design contest .