NASA is funding a deep sleep chamber and other crazy concepts

Eight projects made it to NIAC's phase 2.

NASA is setting aside money to fund the most ambitious and odd-but-interesting projects that made it through NIAC's first phase. NIAC or NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is the agency's annual program that welcomes submissions from forward-thinking scientists. The agency has chosen eight from the 13 phase 1 concepts, including a deep sleep chamber that astronauts can use for missions to Mars, the moon and places much farther than Earth's orbit.

One project wants to explore the use of robots to expand habitats when they're already in space, while another plans to use a planet's atmosphere to slow down descending spacecraft to make missions more affordable. There's also one that wants to use a coating that can reflect 99.9% of the sun's energy for long-term cryogenic storage, say to transport liquid oxygen and other chemicals to Mars and other planets. While these concepts sound like they came right out of a sci-fi movie, their creators were able to demonstrate that they're quite feasible. NASA is awarding each one up to $500,000 to develop their concepts further for two more years. Who knows -- someday, our descendants might use one of NIAC's concepts to roam the universe