The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program invests in early-stage technology ideas that are meant to help create new and future technologies for NASA to be able to explore Space.
NASA, industry and academic experts and researchers have selected 23 potentially life-changing concepts with a total award value of $7 million.
One of the concept missions that NASA is focusing on is creating technologies that can capture Earth-like images of planets outside of our Solar System. This concept mission has been granted $2 million to further its research.
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"NIAC is an innovative program that encourages researchers – and the agency – to think outside of the box for solutions that could overcome challenges facing future science and exploration missions," said Walt Engelund, deputy associate administrator for programs within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
"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," Engelund continued.
A concept mission to capture images of exoplanets, including any and all vegetation, water, etc, has moved on to Phase III. A researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Slava Turyshev, has received a $2 million grant from NIAC to continue developing the technologies for this study.
During Phase I and Phase II of his research, Turyshev described the feasibility of a solar gravity lens that would allow enhanced viewing of planets orbiting other stars known as exoplanets.
Turyshev's study is only the third one to move on to Phase III. "We’re excited by its potential to bring us closer to imaging an exoplanet in detail, at a resolution comparable to the well-known Apollo 8 Earthrise photo," explained NIAC Program Executive Jason Derleth.
The 2020 NIAC Selections are now available. The press release is available here:https://t.co/DgspQ86jiS— T. Marshall Eubanks (@TM_Eubanks) April 8, 2020
NASA selects the proposals for these concepts and technologies through a peer-review process that focuses on innovation and technical viability. All of the chosen projects are still in their early stages, and many will need around a decade or more for the technology to be ready and are not considered official NASA missions.