Mat KaplanAug 13, 2013

Back to the Future With NIAC Program Exec Jay Falker

Before you listen to this week's Planetary Radio, take this test of your openness to bleeding edge innovation.  When you heard about Elon Musk's proposal for an 800 mile per hour "Hyperloop" transportation system, did you dismiss him as a hopelessly unrealistic dreamer?  Or did your enthusiasm immediately drive you to the web in search of the ultracool artist's rendering?  If you did the latter, you're probably also a fan of NIAC.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program just announced the selection of 12 more projects for "Phase 1" seed funding.  I think it's an inspiring collection of ideas that range from moderately crazy to "Why didn't I think of that?"  Longtime PlanRad listeners will remember my conversation with NIAC founder Bob Cassanova back in 2005.  And it was just a year ago that I attended a NIAC symposium to talk with scientists working on space radiation shields for astronauts. 

NASA's Jay Falker is the NIAC Program Executive.  We talked about the how NIAC makes its choices, and singled out a few of the new projects.  It's a diverse group, running from new forms of propulsion, through teaching bacteria to build Mars habitats, to designing spacecraft for astronauts in hibernation or "torpor."  No one knows whether any of the 12 will pan out, but I love that there's an agency giving them a chance.

Also on this week's show is Bill Nye's concern regarding the departure of Deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver.  Emily Lakdawalla answers critics of Curiosity, and Bruce Betts brings us another space trivia puzzler in What's Up.  Join us as we journey outside the box.

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