Montage of innovative concepts selected for 2017 NIAC Phase I and Phase II funding Credits: Joel Sercel, Jay McMahon, Siegfried Janson, Adam Arkin, Jonathan Sauder, John Lewis and background, Chris Mann- NASA

Innovation leads to progress, and this innovation begins only when the world is in need of improvements. NASA accepts 22 early-stage innovative technology proposals that will help transform future human and robotic exploration missions.

The space-agency will now invest on 22 projects under the 2017 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. Out of these 22, 15 proposals have been selected for the Phase I.

Phase I awards value approximately $125,000. NASA will invest on these for nine months, to support initial definition and also analysis of their concepts. The 15 proposals selected for Phase I are listed below.

  • A Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture.
  • A Breakthrough Propulsion Architecture for Interstellar Precursor Missions.
  • Evacuated Airship for Mars Missions.
  • Mach Effects for In Space Propulsion: Interstellar Mission.
  • Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump.
  • Turbolift.
  • Phobos L1 Operational Tether Experiment.
  • Gradient Field Imploding Liner Fusion Propulsion System.
  • Massively Expanded NEA Accessibility via Microwave-Sintered Aerobrakes.
  • Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with Area-of-Effect Soft-bots.
  • Continuous Electrode Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion.
  • Sutter: Breakthrough Telescope Innovation for Asteroid Survey Missions to Start a Gold Rush in Space.
  • Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission.
  • Solar Surfing.
  • A Direct Probe of Dark Energy Interactions with a Solar System Laboratory.
Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture
Credits: NASA/Adam Arkin

As far as Phase II is considered, the agency allows awardees time to refine their designs and also explore aspects of implementing the new technology. The cost for the awards under Phase II of the NIAC program estimates to about $500,000. The agency will fund for two-year studies. The selected projects for Phase II are listed below.

  • Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion.
  • Remote Laser Evaporative Molecular Absorption Spectroscopy Sensor System.
  • Brane Craft Phase II.
  • Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets.
  • Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments.
  • Optical Mining of Asteroids, Moons, and Planets to Enable Sustainable Human Exploration and Space Industrialization.
  • Fusion-Enabled Pluto Orbiter and Lander.
Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE)
Credits: NASA/ Jonathan Sauder

The space agency selected these projects through a peer-review process. The evaluation criteria included innovativeness and also technical viability. The projects which are in the early stages of development, will require around 10 years for improvising the concept. According to NASA, these projects indeed need this cushion time to improve technologically also.

NASA is preparing for a future that could include technologies that so far have been limited to the realm of science fiction.