Boulder, Colorado. June 25, 2014 – The University of Colorado will be among 12 award recipients under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, which aims to turn science fiction into fact through pioneering technology development.
Webster Cash, of the University of Colorado-Boulder, will be the principal investigator in the development of the Aragoscope, an ultra-high resolution telescope at a fraction of the normal cost. The Aragoscope will use an opaque disc, positioned between a conventional telescope and a distant target, to boost the resolution of the desired image. If it’s successful, the Aragoscope could allow affordable telescopes to take images at a resolution at least a thousand times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope.
“The 2014 NIAC Phase I candidates were outstanding, which made final selections decisions particularly difficult,” said NIAC Program Executive Jay Falker. “So we considered various kinds of potential benefit and risk, and developed this portfolio to really push boundaries and explore new approaches, which is what makes NIAC unique.”
NASA solicits visionary, long-term concepts for technological maturation based on their potential value to future agency space missions and operational needs. The projects are chosen through a peer-review process that evaluates their potential, technical approach, and benefits for study in a timely manner. All concepts are very early in the development cycle, years from implementation.
“The latest NIAC selections include a number of exciting concepts for planetary exploration,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “We are working with innovators around the nation to transform the future of aerospace, while also focusing our investments on concepts to address challenges of current interests both in space and here on Earth.”
NASA’s early investments and partnerships with creative scientists, engineers, and citizen inventors from across the nation will provide technological dividends and help maintain America’s leadership in the global technology economy.
Seedling investments may provide the breakthrough technologies needed to support NASA’s plans for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, into deep space and to Mars, as outlined in the Evolvable Mars Campaign.
NIAC Phase I awards are approximately $100,000, providing awardees the funding needed to conduct a nine-month initial definition and analysis study of their concepts. If the basic feasibility studies are successful, researchers can then apply for Phase II awards, which provide up to $500,000 for two more years of concept development.
The portfolio of diverse and pioneering ideas selected for NIAC awards represent multiple technology areas, including space propulsion, human habitation, science instruments, materials for use in space, and exploring other diverse technology paths needed to meet NASA’s strategic goals.
In addition to the Aragoscope, this year’s concepts include a submarine to explore the methane lakes of Saturn’s giant moon, Titan,, and a concept to safely capture space debris.