NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program is perhaps the best place to get federal funding for an idea that seems crazy – because program managers think it may be just crazy enough to function.
Researchers doing the "Phase I" cut receive about $ 125,000 over 9 months to develop their idea, be it breathtaking or simply technically difficult. If significant progress is made or if the concept is promising, a second "Phase II" investment of up to $ 500,000 may be made at NASA's discretion.
According to NIAC program director Jason Derleth, "this year has been particularly fierce with more than 230 submissions and only 25 winners." A significant number of Phase II awards have also been awarded (you may recall a little selections from last year).
I've put together most of them with explanations in the simplest language that I've been able to invoke – click to see what NASA thinks the future from space exploration might look like.