The 12 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Programme aim to turn science fiction into fact through pioneering technology development, a NASA release said.
The proposals range from a submarine that would explore the hydrocarbon seas of Saturn's huge moon Titan to a concept to safely capture a tumbling asteroid, space debris and other applications.
"The latest NIAC selections include a number of exciting concepts for planetary exploration," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington DC.
"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," he added.
NASA chose this year's proposals based on their potential to transform future aerospace missions by enabling either entirely new missions or breakthroughs in future aerospace capabilities that could accelerate progress toward NASA's goals.
Each funded proposal receives about $100,000 for nine months to a year of initial studies.
If successful, awardees can later apply for a Phase II grant that gives out up to $500,000 for two more years of concept development.