NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Awards $7 Million Grants For New, Continued Studies


NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts has received $7 million grant funding. For all those unaware, the NIAC program takes high-risk, high-reward bets on unique ideas for space exploration and observation. NASA has announced the details of this year's grants and how it will be split up for various programs.

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Awards $7 Million Grants


NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Listed

NIAC awards are split into three tiers: Phase I, II and III, where $125,000 and nine months are given to show the new concept. Phase II gives $500,000 and two years to show how the concept might actually work. Lastly, the concept receives $2 million to develop the concept into a real project.

The program invests in early-stage technology ideas from NASA, industry, and academic researchers across the country have selected 23 potentially revolutionary concepts.

"We're excited about the new concepts and to see how additional time and resources advances the research selected for follow-on Phase II and III studies," said Walt Engelund, deputy associate administrator for programs within NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

Going into the details, one of the accepted missions is a concept to image Earth-like planets outside of the solar system that was selected for a Phase III study. Slava Turyshev, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will now be receiving a $2 million grant to further mature the concept and related technologies.

Also, another project is the "solar gravitational lens", which involves observing the way light comes from distant exoplanets and is bent around our sun. The result is the ability to create high-resolution images of extremely distant and dark objects. Instead of having a single-pixel showing us a planet in a neighboring star system, we could a very detailed picture with nearly a million pixels.

Apart from these, several Phase II projects are equally interesting. For instance, there's one that mines ice-rich lunar soil in permanently dark areas using power collected from permanently bright areas only a few hundred meters up in tall 'Sunflower' towers. There's another to robot concept that would offload heavy life support systems, which would follow astronauts around.

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