NASA's NIAC Program Gives a Sneak Peek at the Future of Space Travel

As NASA develops plans for exploring the moon and Mars, the agency is seeking cutting-edge research that could turn science fiction into reality.

From Star Trek–like medical scanners to concepts for off-planet agriculture like in The Expanse, science fiction has often inspired actual research at NASA and other space agencies. This week, researchers are meeting at a virtual conference for the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program to brainstorm and investigate sci-fi-like ideas, some of which may very well shape the missions of the next 20 years.

A drone helicopter hopping about a Martian crater or a lunar rover that maps moon ice might have seemed far-fetched a decade ago, but

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