Cosmic seaplanes and self-growing bricks could help us explore other worlds

James Vaughan (Fair Use)

In the golden age of space exploration we live in, cosmic revelations seem to occur more frequently than ever before.

This week, astronomers discovered a rarity: two stars that could one day collide and produce showers of gold.

The possibility of finding celestial wonders such as this one, however, took years of innovation and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

It raises the question of what will be possible in the coming decades. What are the emerging technologies that could provide new ways of studying the universe?

Fortunately for us, innovators are hard at work transforming futuristic science fiction ideas into scientific reality that may one day unlock the final frontier.

The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts program is known for receiving cutting-edge proposals that could shape the agency’s future missions.

A seaplane-like aircraft that could fly on Saturn’s moon Titan and self-growing bricks to make Martian habitats are among the new concepts recently funded by NASA.

There are also several projects in the works that could sharpen our view of the cosmos, including a massive fluid space telescope, a virtual telescope made of thousands of satellites, and a space observatory dedicated to searching for Earth 2.0.

This year’s Phase I award winners — each granted $175,000 — will spend the next nine months working to prove how feasible their concepts could be.