The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program has awarded funding to six early-stage space technology concepts. The program aims to stimulate the development of futuristic concepts that could revolutionize spaceflight and exploration.

In previous years, each of these initiatives received initial funding through NIAC’s Phase 1. They have received a second round of funding for additional research under NIAC Phase 2 — up to $600,000 over a two-year period.

Two-year projects will get up to $600,000.

FarView, a proposed low-frequency radio telescope array that would be constructed on the far side of the moon using lunar regolith, is one of this year’s NIAC Phase 2 grantees. This location would protect the observatory from terrestrial atmospheric and radio interference. During Phase 1 of NIAC, the FarView team determined that the observatory would be able to investigate the enigmatic Cosmic Dark Ages.

PI — Planetary Defense, another NIAC Phase 2 grantee, aims to defend the planet from asteroids and other prospective impactors. The leading method of planetary defense is momentum transfer to change an impactor’s trajectory, as demonstrated by NASA’s DART mission in September of last year.

Even if NIAC’s projects seem odd, they’re meant to question the established quo.

However, this new project investigates an alternative method: pulverizing the impactor into small pieces that would burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The organization intends to accomplish this with a “array of small hypervelocity kinetic penetrators.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement, “NASA’s narrative is one of barriers broken and technologies transformed to support our missions and benefit all of humanity” (opens in new tab). The concepts chosen for NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program will enable researchers to develop new technologies that could revolutionize space exploration and enhance life on Earth.

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