NASA’s space shuttle program may have been retired, but that doesn’t mean the agency has abandoned its plans for extraterrestrial adventure. In fact, it just announced plans for an ambitious new set of outer-space initiatives.
NASA announced plans to fund 30 new space projects yesterday, covering everything from ways to reduce the amount of debris orbiting Earth to 3-D printers that will aid in the construction of planetary outposts.
Each of the proposals will receive $100,000 in funding for a one-year period of research and development. The funding was arranged as part of the agency’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) department, according to the official announcement.
Along with the two aforementioned projects, additional proposals include ways to protect astronauts from deep-space radiation and methods for fueling spacecrafts with solar and nuclear energy.
“These innovative concepts have the potential to mature into the transformative capabilities NASA needs to improve our current space mission operations, seeding the technology breakthroughs needed for the challenging space missions in NASA’s future,” said NASA chief technologist Bobby Braun.
One example of the projects being funded is the Space Debris Elimination proposal by Daniel Gregory of Raytheon BBN Technologies. The project will investigate the viability of using a specialized “air gun” to push space junk out of orbit and reduce the threat of an in-space collision, according to Space.com.
As for the 3-D printer, that project involves the use of 3-D printing technology to construct tools, equipment, and even spacecraft and lunar habitats using the printers, which layer material like plastic or metals into a three-dimensional construct.