Nasa will be funding research on some wild sci-fi ideas which have been explored only in movies so far. In the long list is artificial gravity, a Pluto-orbiter-cum-lander and a Martian airship seen in the movie John Carter.
The funding will be provided by the Nasa Innovative Advanced Concepts programme (NIAC) that has been backing far-out aerospace concepts for nearly 20 years. Modelled after the Pentagon's Darpa think tank, the agency has announced funding for 22 visionary concepts this year.
The grants will be given in two phases. Phase I is for initial ideas where applicants get $125,000 (£101,026) for nine months to build their concept and chalk out its feasibility. If basic feasibility studies are practical and approachable, the ideas can be explored further and qualify for the Phase II grant, which is $500,000 and two additional years of funding.
"We believe these technology proposals have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems," said the agency in a statement.
Take a look at some crazy theories from the 22 applications, many of which you may have come across before if you are a sci-fi fan.
Martian airship: While Nasa already has advanced plans for a Martian manned crew, this idea proposes sending airships floating through the Red Planet's skies. Sci-fi novels and movies have had spaceships floating around for decades on such planets but an actual scientific proposition is exciting.
Georgia Tech's John-Paul Clarke, the brain behind the proposal, will have to deal with one big problem, though. Mars' actual atmosphere as declared by Nasa before is so thin that an airship would have to maintain a vacuum to become buoyant. Clarke says in his application that he intends to propose a double-shelled, reinforced vacuum airship for this purpose.
Artificial gravity: For astronauts to keep their feet on the floor as they walk around interplanetary spaceships is a challenging task owing to the absence of gravity beyond the earth. To overcome this, Jason Gruber of Medical Solutions Group and his team want to develop a method to give astronauts a dose of artificial gravity during long-duration space missions.
Crops on Mars:Matt Damon not only successfully survived on Mars in the movie Martian but also managed to grow potatoes there. Adam Arkin from the University of California has proposed to take the idea of "vegetation" on Mars ahead and hopes to come up with a practical plan to detoxify Martian soil for agriculture.
Fusion-Enabled Pluto Orbiter and Lander: The tiny planet that most of us grew up learning as the ninth planet of our solar system was plutoed a couple of years back, but that hasn't stopped scientists from wanting to find out more about the entity. Benjamin Goldman from the Global Aerospace Corporation in Irwindale, California, has proposed research for a fusion-enabled Pluto- lander-cum-orbiter that may be able to access the far-reaching dwarf planet like never before. The plan proposes a stopover at the planet and arrival within just four to five years.
To check out all these ideas that have the potential to turn into reality some day, click here.