Monday, November 05, 2007

Prizes for Technological Innovation Paper and Lunar Rovers

Last Spring I mentioned a paper called Prizes for Technological Innovation that I admitted I'd only skimmed. This paper addresses prizes for any technological industry, but it does have a lot to say about space in particular. For example:

NASA has been very imaginative in its use of prizes. I propose that it now also move forward with some more ambitious competitions that are under discussion, such as an Earth-Moon solar sailcraft race and a lunar lander-rover. Under this plan, NASA would devote at least one hundred million dollars of its $16.8 billion annual budget to prizes.

Interestingly, one of the specific prizes then "under discussion" that it advocated NASA fund is:

Lunar lander-rover: A twenty million dollar prize would be established for the first team to land a robotic rover on the lunar surface that is able to travel ten kilometers and send a video signal back to Earth. It has been more than thirty years since the United States conducted exploration on the surface of the moon, and such a competition could provide NASA with innovative, low-cost technology options for renewed exploration.

As we know, this general idea was eventually picked up as the Google Lunar X PRIZE. However, it's not too late for NASA to get into the action and participate in this prize. I doubt that Google or the X PRIZE Foundation would object to NASA co-sponsoring some bonus Lunar X PRIZEs, for example.

The paper also goes into detail in other industries, such as educational software, energy efficiency, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture.