Not only the Moon: NASA he is working hard to bring humans back there, but always keeps an eye out for frontier solutions. For this reason, it has selected new projects financed by the programme Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC).
Galactic hitchhiker pharmacy
One of the six selected research teams comes up with the idea of developing a space pharmacy that would allow astronauts to have access to treatments and medicines during long stays in orbit.
The ultimate goal, however, is self-sufficiency. Astronauts will, when needed, create their own drugs on demand. This "astro pharmacy" could serve as a center for treating people exposed to radiation or improving astronauts' bone health, two common problems for space travelers.
An asteroid-proof atmosphere
Another recently funded project involves the creation of a planetary defense system that allows incoming asteroids to be pulverized, using the Earth's atmosphere as a "shield" against debris.
The idea is to use small, high-speed kinetic penetrators to break up large space rocks. Once split into smaller fragments, these would burn up upon entering the atmosphere due to the extreme heat and pressure, giving our planet a "rapid response capability" against a catastrophic impact.
It seems like a more radical and more effective alternative than "shooting" a satellite at an asteroid to deflect it (remember the DART project?). The impression, however, is that much more resources are required than for a "simple" space pharmacy.
The other spatial ideas on the horizon
Among the other concepts proposed? A quantum radar to improve surveys in space, technologies of solid state propulsion, a system of radioactive electric propulsion to study fast objects and a gigantic one radio telescope network.
Each of the six projects will receive up to $600.000 in funding over two years to further develop the ideas.
In summary, NASA is not satisfied with just one goal but looks beyond, imagining a future in which human beings will be able to face the challenges posed by the space environment with advanced technologies. A star pharmacy and an asteroid shield might sound like sci-fi movie ideas, but determination and ingenuity could become reality very soon.