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NASA grants seed funding for submarine mission to Saturn moon

"It's a very far-out idea, but it's something that I think we can definitely do engineering-wise," {link:said Steven Oleson.
By Brooks Hays   |   June 9, 2014 at 2:21 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- NASA has granted seed money to 12 zany ideas as part of its Innovative Advanced Concepts Program (NIAC). Each concept will be granted $100,000 for a nine-month study. If scientists prove their project's worth, they can request another $500,000 for a more in-depth follow-up study.

Maybe the most out-there of the 12 newly funded ideas is the one suggesting a submarine be sent to Saturn's moon Titan to explore its lake of methane called Kraken Mare.

"It's a very far-out idea, but it's something that I think we can definitely do engineering-wise," said Steven Oleson of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Interestingly, an advantage Titan's Kraken Mare has over Earth's water is that it doesn't interfere with radio waves. Whereas subs here on Earth have to rise to the surface to communicate, on Titan -- where its methane seas feature hydrocarbons -- the submarine captains may be able to chat from deep beneath.

"The really neat thing is that the hydrocarbons should be transparent to radio waves," said Oleson.

Other concepts include: using neutrinos, electrically neutral subatomic particles, to measure and study our solar system's distant moons. Another concept offers new thoughts how to best capture an asteroid or space rock.

"The latest NIAC selections include a number of exciting concepts for planetary exploration," explained Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, the office that oversees NIAC program. "We are working with innovators around the nation to transform the future of aerospace, while also focusing our investments on concepts to address challenges of current interests both in space and here on Earth."

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