Monday, October 23, 2006

NASA Aeronautics Contest

Space News reports that NASA is going to have a new round of a contest for high school and college students in various areas of aeronautics, including aspects of Mars missions. Apparently this competition has been held for several years, but this is the first I've heard of it. Winning prizes range from $1,000 to $5,000, and possibly a NASA internship.

DARPA Grand Challenge may lose its prize

DARPA is planning to follow its original Grand Challenge with a new contest for moving a robotic car in urban traffic. However, it appears that the $2.75 million in prize money has hit a pothole. The prize incentive is gone, but 11 teams have been selected for what amounts to traditional grant funding. The contest is still on, but it's hard to see real competitive or entrepreneurial spirit thriving when some of the teams have such an advantage. It would be like trying to build a private rocket when the government funds space shuttles to compete against you. You'd be better off staying home and playing rocket (or Army car) video games. Also, in addition to the incentive of the prize, most of the prestige of winning comes from the high value of the prize. It's still a worthy goal, but from here it looks like the excitement is gone. Hopefully the prize gets revived later.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

X Prize Cup Deluge; Mars Society Rover competition

With the X Prize Cup about to start, there are more news stories about the event than I can keep up with, and the main event hasn't even started yet. Rather than try to keep up, I'll just point you to the various blogs and other news sources like RLV News/Hobbyspace, Lunar Lander Challenge, and the rest (linked on the right). Many of them are in New Mexico at the X Prize Cup and will be making updates as they happen. It looks like it's going to be a fun and suspenseful event, with space prize competitions and much more. It's well worth keeping up with at these other sites. The X Prize Cup site itself will have a live webcast so people like me can watch from a distance.

Instead of covering the X Prize Cup, the one item I'll point out is a space prize by the Mars Society, which will be holding a Mars Rover competition simulating a rover controlled by Mars astronauts with a $5,000 prize for the winning team. It's starting to get tough to even keep track of all of the space prizes! I think there will be a lot of prestige value for the university, department, and students that win this one (to say nothing of the fun of making a rover).

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Along with the X Prize Cup

Along with the X Prize Cup, where the Lunar Lander Challenge and Space Elevator competitions are going to be held along with many other space-related events, are a couple of space conferences. One is the International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight (ISPS) which will be held right before the X Prize Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Check out the agenda, which includes some people and organizations related to prizes (prize spoinsors, former competitors, and companies no doubt inspired by the X Prize). In addition, as noted by Spaceports, there is the Wirefly X Prize Cup Executive Summit, a more "exclusive" event that, among other things, addresses the question "Can prizes help drive these breakthroughs?" in technologies needed to improve spaceflight. With NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, Peter Diamandis, Al Gore, Anousheh Ansari, and many others present, it will be interesting to see if anyone comes bearing gifts in the form of new, well thought-out space prizes. It would be the perfect time and place for such an announcement in terms of a friendly audience and available news media. In Dr. Griffin's case, it would just be bad form NOT to have some kind of announcement in that NASA-skeptical crowd.

The Space Elevator Reference

NASA points us to the Space Elevator Reference. This Internet resource has a number of posts about the Space Elevator Games at the X Prize Cup:

You can be pretty sure that this site will continue to keep us up to date on the power beaming and tether Challenges at this year's X Prize Cup, so keep checking there!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A busy week in the space world

It's been a busy week in the space world, and a busy week in the space prize world, too. For the latest in general space news, check out the "Other Space News" links on the right. (Occasionally there will be news about space prizes at these sites, too). Here are some of the recent events in the space prize world:

Lunar Lander Challenge has an update on that central space prize competition at the upcoming X Prize Cup. Masten Space Systems will not be competing for the Lunar Lander Challenge. The Lunar Lander Challenge was not announced all that long ago, so the competitors haven't had a lot of time to design and implement their entries. Hopefully there will be a follow-on challenge next year.

The X Prize Cup now is called the Wirefly X Prize Cup. I guess that's a sponsor.

RLV News notes that Armadillo LLC, a prominent Lunar Lander Challenge competitor, has a new web page. The second anniversary of the winning Ansari X Prize flight is also discussed there.

Jonathan Goff has more about MSS and the Lunar Lander Challenge.

Anousheh Ansari has some words about her landing, the the next X Prize, and all of our responsibilities after the trip.

Jack Kennedy at Spaceports has an overview about the upcoming Lunar Lander Challenge.

Finally, has an article that discusses the Space Elevator Games at the upcoming X Prize Cup.