Monday, April 30, 2007

Mars Robotic Construction Challenge

The Spaceward Foundation has a lot of space prizes on the agenda. They are going to be running the Space Elevator Games again later this year, but this post is on another prize - a Mars robotic construction prize. I'm not sure what the status is of this one, but whether or not it really ends up happening, it's an interesting idea. This idea was in the works for the NASA Centennial Challenges program, but hasn't (yet?) been funded. Contestants would send Mars robots they build to the Spaceward Foundation. Spaceward would put the robots in a simulated Martian environment. They would control the robots over the internet with a time delay similar to that experienced by JPL controllers of real Mars robots. The plan is to use the test environment for a continuing series of difficult $250,000 prizes like connecting ISRU components. The prizes would be geared towards complex tasks that require multiple Mars robots cooperating. Smaller prizes would be available for less difficult tasks designed for science high schools. The simulator and computer setup could also be used for ongoing testing of Mars robotics with large time delays.