They include research into suspended animation, Space.com reported Saturday.
The programs selected for phase one of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, or NIAC, will receive about $100,000 each, officials said.
The idea is to give them nine months for an initial study, followed by applications for $500,000 for two years of further research.
"These new Phase 1 selections include potential breakthroughs for Earth and space science, diverse operations and the potential for new paths that expand human civilization and commerce into space," NIAC program executive Jay Falker said.
The suspended animation research is specifically aimed at getting human astronauts to Mars. John Bradford of Spaceworks Engineering Inc. got the grant for what is described as "torpor-Inducing transfer habitat For human stasis To Mars."