Sometimes a good idea takes some tinkering. You have a thought that it will work, but what it really requires is you take some money and time and test it out in a small form. This principle is sound if you’re trying to do home renovation (a paint splash on a wall can let you see if the color will work) and it is especially true if you’re planning a multi-million dollar mission to another planet.
This is the thought behind the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts office, which announced a dozen far-flung drawing-board proposals that received $100,000 in Phase 1 funding for the next 9-12 months. There are vehicles to explore the soupy moon of Titan, a design to snag a tumbling asteroid, and other ideas to explore the solar system. (But be patient: These testbed ideas would take decades to come to fruition, if they are even accepted for further study and funding.) Check out a full list of the concepts below.
Titan Aerial Daughtercraft: A small rotorcraft that can touch down from a balloon or lander, with the idea being that it can jump between several spots to do close-up views. It would then bring its samples back to the “mothership” and possibly recharge there as well. “The autonomy needed for this concept is also applicable to exciting rotorcraft mission concepts for Mars and to in-situ exploration of Enceladus,” the description stated, referring to an icy moon of Saturn.
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