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Stanford’s 2021 NIAC fellows are working to bring sci-fi concepts to real space exploration

Diagram of the mothership powering the space probe with a laser beam.
Courtesy of the Fan Lab
May 3 2021
Faculty, Fellow, Research, Stanford

A mothership that emits power with a laser beam to manipulate a probe craft in deep space. A robot that extends its arms to climb in Martian caverns and grasp objects.

These are innovations you might expect to see in a science fiction movie – one where the hero embarks on interplanetary travel across the solar system. But they are also are visionary ideas from the minds of Stanford University researchers that have already received funding from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program.

As 2021 NIAC fellows, Sigrid Close and Marco Pavone – both associate professors of aeronautics and astronautics – are being given the chance to prove the feasibility of their inventive concepts, known as SCATTER and ReachBot. Close and Pavone are among 14 other NIAC Phase I recipients who are receiving $125,000 to fund nine-month studies on their research ideas. Though their ideas might seem out of this world, should they succeed, they’d drastically impact space exploration.

Study co-reseacher Stephanie Schneider is a 2017 SGF Fellow.

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