Venus missions? Interstellar probes? Here are 18 wild space tech ideas NASA is looking at

These early-stage projects could change how we explore the universe


Lunar ice mining, smart spacesuits, “solar surfing” spacecraft and advanced exoplanet finders are a few of the early stage space technologies whose research NASA has chosen to help fund this year.

Through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, the agency has offered funds to 18 project proposals. The projects are aimed to design and test technology concepts for potential future NASA missions.

“Our NIAC program nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions by investing in revolutionary technologies,” Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “We look to America’s innovators to help us push the boundaries of space exploration with new technology.”

The program includes Phase I and Phase II awards. Phase I winners receive approximately $125,000 over nine months for initial validation of their concepts. If successful, Phase I awardees can apply for Phase II awards, during which they can refine their designs with additional funding. Starting this summer, NIAC will also select one idea for a Phase III research study, according to the statement.

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