The novel ideas that NASA is betting on that could bring space travel closer
Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 15 January 2023, at 09:05 am PST
NASA is still willing to fund unusual concepts in its quest to advance space exploration. The agency is awarding $175,000 in initial study grants for 14 projects that could be useful for missions in the solar system and beyond. The most important project may be TitanAir, a seaplane built by Quinn Morley of Planet Enterprises that could fly through Saturn's moon Titan's nitrogen and methane atmosphere and navigate its oceans.
The "flying boat" would collect methane and complex organic materials for study. Meanwhile, a project by UCLA's Artur Davoyan could accelerate missions to the edges of the solar system and even into interstellar space. His design would propel spacecraft by producing a beam of microscopic particles traveling at very high speed (over 119 kilometers per second) using laser blasts. The concept could dramatically shorten the time it takes to explore outer space. While Voyager 1 took 35 years to reach interstellar space, a one-ton spacecraft could get there in just three years.
Other efforts are equally ambitious. MIT's Mary Knapp has proposed a deep-space observatory that would use thousands of tiny satellites to detect low-frequency radio emissions from the early universe and the magnetic fields of Earth-like exoplanets. These are all very early initiatives that will not necessarily reach real-world implementation.
But if even partially successful, NASA could make significant discoveries with existing and future technology.