NASA Announces Investments in Innovative Space Projects

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NASA revealed the projects chosen from the 2021 edition of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, an initiative with the mission of innovating space technologies for the exploration of the Universe. The selected ideas, based on reliable concepts and scientific applications, will receive funding for research and development grants.

This year, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) selected 16 proposals for Phase I, which earmarks a grant of up to $ 125,000 for preliminary research. If your studies are successful and visible, each one can earn up to US $ 500,000 after 9 months, in Phase II, and US $ 2 million in Phase III.

“NIAC fellows are known for dreaming big, proposing technologies that may seem like a frontier with science fiction,” said STMD member Jenn Gustetic. “There are an impressive number of new participants in the program this year,” said Jason Derleth, an NIAC executive, in a statement from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the agency’s technology center.

Although not all of the ideas approved in the initial stage will actually come to fruition, some will be able to be used in future space agency missions. Check below the descriptions of the research accepted in Phase I:

FLOAT: Flexible Levitation on a Track

Ethan Schaler, robotics engineer at JPL, presented the idea for the creation of an infrastructure for a cargo handling system on the Moon, using magnetic robots that would levitate on a flexible three-layer runway. The promise is to offer reliable, autonomous and efficient transport, inspired by land railways.

SWIM: Sensing with Independent Micro-swimmers

Schaler was also accepted as a fellow in another project, formed by swimming micro robots to explore ocean worlds. His proposal is to insert them in Europa, Jupiter’s largest moon, to expand the capacity of missions at the site, aiming to increase the detection of evidence of habitability, biomarkers or life on the satellite.

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