NIAC is a research arm associated with NASA that funds far term space related ideas, such as Space Elevator, magnetic solar sails, Ion Drives, and so forth.

From their website:


  • Provide an independent, open forum for the external analysis and definition of space and aeronautics advanced concepts
  • Complement the advanced concepts activities conducted within the NASA Enterprise

  • Focus on revolutionary concepts for systems and architectures
  • Functionally independent of NASA
  • Bounded only by the horizons of human imagination
  • Expand our vision of future possibilities
  • Create an additional channel for advanced concepts to respond to NASA Enterprise "Grand Challenges" and to augment NASA Enterprise Strategic Objectives Goal
  • Develop advanced concepts which will result in changes to the nation's future aerospace policies and plans

One of the neat things about this organisation is that if you think you have a clever idea, you can apply for a grant, and they may well give you a few hundred thousand dollars to look into it.