Jill Layton
Updated Apr 08, 2017 @ 11:37 am
Credit: Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

A whopping 22 proposed space exploration projects are being funded by NASA, and they’re all wildly advanced and super rad. As part of its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, NASA regularly considers ideas pitched by American innovators and entrepreneurs. These ideas could transform future NASA missions with better, or even brand new, aerospace concepts.

Getting a project accepted through NASA isn’t an easy feat, as you can probably imagine.

There are two phases to get through. Teams that given Phase I status are awarded $125,000. Then, they’re given nine months to refine their designs and explore ways of bringing their schemes to life. Their proposals get vetted by a peer review process.

But only a lucky few make it to Phase II. Phase II teams receive as much as $500,000. They work on two-year visionary projects. The winning Phase II plans are chosen according to their feasibility and benefit.

So when a concept gets chosen by NASA, it’s clearly a big deal.

On Friday, NASA announced 15 new Phase I concepts and seven new Phase II concepts. and this is incredibly exciting for the world of space travel. The concepts include a mechanical rover inspired by a Dutch artist and a weather balloon that recharges its batteries in the clouds of Venus. Another concept is a spacecraft that would travel to Pluto equipped with an orbiter and a lander. It would reach Pluto in just four to five years. (This is as opposed to the 10 years it took New Horizons to get there.)

Of course, not all plans will be approved. But it’s pretty exciting to know that space exploration is becoming more and more advanced.