Calls for the return of NIAC

Expert panel urges NASA to revive futuristic think tank

NASA should revive its Institute for Advanced Concepts, a blue-skies idea mill that closed in 2007, says an expert panel – but it says the new incarnation should have its feet a little closer to the ground.

NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) was founded in 1998 to harvest innovative ideas for spaceflight and aeronautics from outside the NASA community.

It received $4 million a year, about 0.02 per cent of NASA’s annual budget, and funded more than 100 futuristic spaceflight and aeronautics projects that no one else would touch. The projects included motion-sensitive spacesuits that generate their own power, techniques to construct buildings in space using radio waves, and spherical robots to explore Mars, among many others.

But in 2007, a combination of budget constraints and internal politics shut the organisation down. On Friday, a committee convened by the US National Research Council released a report suggesting that NASA bring back the think tank.

See NRC report – Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts

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