Wonderful Engineering

This List Of Futuristic Space Exploration Concepts By NASA Will Amaze You!

NASA

Heartened by Trump’s anti-science shenanigans finally giving in two weeks back, NASA has just released a list of 22 new projects as a part of its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The exciting list of projects ranges from a solar powered Venusian weather balloon to a planet hopping laser-driven sail, and even an autonomous rover on Pluto. It means that the space exploration is about to go to a whole new level!

Any proposed project has to go through two phases of attrition. The projects, which pass the Phase I, receive a funding of $125,000, and a time of nine months to refine their designs and implementation strategy. Then after nine months, a peer review process again assesses these proposals, with a handful feasible and beneficial projects going through to the Phase II. Phase II teams receive around $500,000 to materialize the project within two years.

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NASA has announced 15 new Phase I concepts and seven new Phase II concepts this year. This includes not one, but two Phase I projects that are based on interstellar space traveling. One of these consists of building an orbiting 100-megawatt laser array that is six miles (10 km) wide. It would be able to convert its humongous laser power into electrical energy, enabling long-distance travel of a conventionally-sized spacecraft.

NASA

The project description reads,

“We propose a new power/propulsion architecture to enable missions such as a 12-year flight time to 500 AU (where 1 AU equals the average distance of the Earth to the Sun) with a conventional (i.e., New Horizons sized) spacecraft,” explains Brophy at his project page. “This architecture would also enable orbiter missions to Pluto with the same sized spacecraft in just 3.6 years. Significantly, this same architecture could deliver an 80-metric-ton payload to Jupiter orbit in one year, opening the possibility of human missions to Jupiter.”

Another exciting project in the list includes the detoxification of Martian soil to make it fit for the agriculture via a plan called “Solar Surfing.” It will use Moon Probes driven by light spacecraft to execute the plan.
A remarkable Phase II plan included a fusion-enabled Pluto orbiter that uses one of its kind Direct Fusion Drive (DFD), allowing the spacecraft to travel to Pluto along with an orbiter and a lander. The plan suggests that the craft can reach Pluto in just four to five years, a journey that took New Horizons almost ten years to complete.

NASA

The plan narrates,

“Since DFD provides power as well as propulsion in one integrated device, it will also provide as much as 2 MW of power to the payloads upon arrival,” says Thomas at her NASA project page. “This enables high-bandwidth communication, powering of the lander from orbit, and radically expanded options for instrument design.” She added: “The data acquired by New Horizons’ recent Pluto flyby is just a tiny fraction of the scientific data that could be generated from an orbiter and lander.”

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Here are all the projects approved by NASA.

The selected 2017 Phase I proposals:

The selected 2017 Phase II proposals: