Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts: Time to Re-Start?

"Report Urges NASA to Resurrect Advanced Concepts Institute"
Space.com (August 7, 2009)

"NASA should resurrect a mothballed institute specifically geared to encourage visionary concepts for future space exploration, according to a new report from the National Research Council (NRC).

"The report, released Friday, recommended that the space agency revive the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC), which was shuttered in 2007, or replace it with a similar innovation-focused entity in order to "seek out far-reaching, advanced concepts with the potential of significant benefit" to NASA's charter and future missions.

" 'Today, NASA's investment in advanced concepts and long-term technological solutions to its strategic goals is minimal,' the new report states. It found the NIAC program extremely successful in encouraging innovative research.

"The 102-page report comes on the heels of President Barack Obama's Aug. 1 speech calling on America to 'recapture the spirit of innovation' during his weekly radio address. In July, an older NRC report also urged NASA to renew efforts in advanced technology development by establishing an internal division modeled on the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)...."

The Lemming admits the obvious: I'm quite interested in space exploration, astronomy, and related subjects.

The Space.com article does a pretty good job of discussing the National Research Council's effort to re-start NASA's Advanced Concepts Institute.

I don't know enough about what's going on to have a firm opinion, although it's been nice, having well-thought-out, informed, speculation on how what we know about physics could be applied to propulsion systems. On the other hand, I'm not at all sure that innovation will wither and die because NASA doesn't fund the NIAC.

Still, encouraging informed speculation and development does seem to be what NASA is about.

Someone's put up a Nasa Institute for Advanced Concepts" page on the Universities Space Research Association's website. And, I see that some of the on-the-horizon pages that NASA has have moved. Like "Warp Drive, When?"

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