Squid-like amphibious rovers exploring Jupiter’s ocean-harbouring moon Europa. “Windbots” flying through the atmospheres of Saturn, drawing energy from the gas giant’s magnetic fields and powerful winds. Concentrated sunlight used to extract water from asteroids.
Sound like crazy science fiction?
Well, NASA thinks otherwise. Earlier this year, the American space agency announced it was ploughing around $1.5 million into more than a dozen such potential technological innovations, in the belief that at least some might have as big an impact on future space science and exploration as the creation of the first artificial geostationary satellite or the development of the Space Shuttle.
Since 2011 the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program has supported unconventional, technically credible concepts which could prove to be genuine game-changers: “Phase I” projects receive approximately $100,000 for up to a year’s further feasibility studies, while “Phase II” studies are awarded around $500,000 for two years’ further research and development.
Past proposals have included developing nano-satellites to explore deep space, and finding ways of making concrete out of lunar soil to build future moon colonies. Here are some of the coolest ideas that NASA’s supported. Which will change space forever? Only time will tell…
Full article first published in All About Space #41.