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JPL to Showcase Futuristic Concepts at NASA Symposium

Published on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 | 3:41 pm
 
Futuristic ideas for space exploration dreamed up as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program are pictured in a photo illustration provided by the space agency. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Technologists from Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena will be among the scientists presenting dozens of ideas to push the limits of human space exploration next week at NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Symposium, according to the institution.

Staff from JPL will share eight projects they have envisioned as part of the forward-looking NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts, or NIAC, program, which asks participants to consider what space travel and exploration may look like in 2050 and beyond, JPL said in a written statement.

The endeavor falls under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and “aims to see what could be possible,” according to the statement.

“[It] funds early-stage research into sci-fi sounding, futuristic technology concepts,” the statement added. “The goal is to find what might work, what might not, and what exciting new ideas researchers may come up with along the way.”

Among JPL’s advanced concepts are tiny robots that may one day swim below the ice-encrusted oceans of other worlds, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa. The plan involves a “mothercraft” that would drill through the icy crust to deploy the centimeter-scale robots into extraterrestrial seas.

Proposals by other participating scientists include robots to crawl through Martian caves, new types of lightweight structures that can be expanded in space, and a process to seed asteroids with fungi in order to create soil, according to JPL.

NASA chooses projects to receive NIAC funding through a peer-review process emphasizing innovations and technical viability, according to JPL.

“All projects are still in the early stages of development, with most requiring a decade or more of technology maturation,” the statement said. “They are not considered official NASA missions.”

The symposium is scheduled to take place Sept. 21 through Sept. 23 and can be viewed online at livestream.com/viewnow/niac2021.It will also be shown on NASA Television, NASA’s website and NASA’s app. Mars 2020 Planetary Protection Lead Moogega Cooper will deliver a keynote address.

More information on the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program is available online at nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/index.html.

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