Thursday, May 31, 2007


A lunarpedia is being developed to cover all things lunar. The link I gave sends you to their summary of the Regolith Excavation Challenge, but there is much more in progress. The main page shows how this differs from Wikipedia. There is also a Marspedia.

TechX Challenge Update

Singapore's TechX Challenge, which is a $1M competition to build a military robot, released the schedule for the challenge meetings. Here's the media page for any future updates.

Updating Links and Tags

I'm in the process of updating some of the background material on the site. This includes adding a number of tags so it's easier to find, for example, all posts related to "Lunar Lander Challenge" when you're already at such a post by clicking the tag. This isn't necessarily needed that much - you can always search in the upper left of the page to get a similar effect - but some people may find it useful. I'm also trying to get the links on the right side to 1 line per link, updating some stale links, rearranging sections, and adding a number of prize and team links to the right side of the page. Hopefully some of the visitors will find this useful.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Videos from ISDC 2007

Here are some videos from the ISDC, reached from instructions here. There are a lot more videos in the series; I'm just linking to ones that appeared to be prize-related (ie the ones I watched). Follow the instructions linked above to find the rest of the videos.

Armadillo representative with Pixel in the background

Michael Mealling from Masten Space on "Why Space"? An overview of Masten's business is also included.

ISDC exhibit hall overview, including a look at the Centennial Challenges display

Interview with Robin Snelson, known here as the blogger at the Lunar Lander Challenge blog (since moved on to other efforts), but who apparently also at one point worked with the X PRIZE

ISDC prizes and awards - descriptions of various NSS awards presented at ISDC, including videos of the actual trophies and other prizes - Wernher von Braun prize for inspirational team leader of a space project, Gerard K. O'neill Award for space settlements, and space pioneer awards, such as the award for the Student Space Settlement Design contest

Space Settlement Design Award winners (in Spanish)

HAL5 X PRIZE Cup presentation last January

Well, it happened a long time ago, but now that I know about it I'll mention it just to give a flavor for some of the activities that have happened: a public lecture January 4, 2007 presented by the National Space Society HAL5 (Huntsville Alabama L5) chapter on the 2006 X PRIZE Cup.

Difficulties on the Way to the Lunar Lander Challenge

RLV News continues to follow the difficulties along the way to the Lunar Lander Challenge, in this case as experienced by Unreasonable Rocket. A number of links to blog posts and videos of rocket tests are included. Everything including a flat tire happens. (Some of the difficulties aren't strictly related to the Lunar Lander Challenge, but all of the side difficulties add to the adventure). Well, I've never built a rocket, but loosely speaking I've been there before ... it's all part of the process.

James Patrick Baen Memorial Writing Contest Winners

One of the prize events at the National Space Society's 2007 ISDC was the James Patrick Baen Memorial Writing Contest. The winners from this contest have now been announced. Forbidden Planet International has a post on the winning stories, and also provides a link to this press release on the contest. The Science Fiction Book Club also has a short post on the winner. The grand prize winner was Mike Wood, for the story "A Better Sense of Direction". This story will be published in Jim Baen's Universe, an online science fiction magazine. Judges include the well-known SF authors Mike Resnick and Eric Flint, as well as Baen Books editor Toni Weisskopf.

Note to future authors: the site that announced the winners also states that they intend to make this an annual event, so start writing!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Paul Spudis at the ISDC

Space Politics has a post on a talk by Paul Spudis at the NSS ISDC. The theme was the Vision for Space Exploration, and especially what is going well and what isn't with the large lunar component of that vision. There are a number of comments on the summary of the talk, and Paul has provided a link to his slides from the presentation. A review of the slides will show that it advocates an implementation of the VSE that follows more of the points in the original VSE and the Aldridge Commission, including a series of lunar robotic precursors (not just 1), serious involvement of commercial space throughout the program (not just in a couple isolated instances), and use of prizes (slide pages 15 and 18).

For more, here's a link to Dr. Spudis's blog. His current post discusses the ISDC and the Space Politics discussions. Here's the Aldridge Commission report, which he participated in - and yes, it recommends a much larger prize program, as well as comprehensive involvement of commercial space in the VSE.

Monday, May 28, 2007

More on Armadillo at ISDC 2007 has more on John Carmack's ISDC 2007 talk. Some of the most interesting points (just read the whole article if these sound interesting):

- Pixel has flown dozens of times since the 2006 Lunar Lander Challenge.
- There seems to be some commercial and government interest in using Pixel to house instruments.
- There are thoughts of using the platform for "Space Diving", or very high altitude skydiving.

Space Liberates Us! and the Lunar Lander Challenge

Space Liberates Us! blog has a number of recent posts, including some from the ISDC, with a Lunar Lander Challenge angle.

First, in one post from the conference there's a picture of Pixel from Armadillo Aerospace.

Next, there's a post on John Carmack's talk at the conference. The post notes that Armadillo intents to bring 4 functioning vehicles to the Lunar Lander Challenge at the 2007 X PRIZE Cup.

Finally, an earlier post notes that the blogger from Space Liberates Us! (Matt) is going to have an internship with Masten Space Systems, another Lunar Lander Challenger. He gets a congratulations from Will Pomerantz from the X PRIZE Foundation in the post's comments.

Asteroid Tagging

From Universe Today comes a link to an article from Really Rocket Science on tag an asteroid, the goal of the Planetary Society's $50,000 Apophis Mission Design Contest.

Here's more from

NSS Space Finance Award

The NSS Space Finance Award was supposed to be presented on May 24 at the ISDC conference's Space Venture Finance Symposium, but I haven't been able to find out who won the award. I will post an update if/when I find out.

Wernher von Braun award

Along with some other posting from the National Space Society ISDC 2007, Instapundit reports that Steven Squyres, of Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity fame, won the NSS's Wernher von Braun award (Instapundit link originally provided by Transterrestrial Musings, which also provides some other ISDC-related links).

Friday, May 25, 2007

X PRIZE Cup Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award

The X PRIZE Cup web site has provided some high level information about various student contests planned for the event, but not a lot of information was available about the competition for the older students. I was just trying to find more about that a couple days ago since the web site shell was there. Now, RLV News posts a PR item from the foundation about the competition, which is for new space concepts that help Personal Spaceflight.

Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation award for students

competition rules

Checking the X PRIZE Cup site, the competition site is all fleshed out now, too.

Other student competitions that will be held at the X PRIZE Cup

Thursday, May 24, 2007

ISDC 2007 started

The National Space Society's International Space Development Conference (ISDC) 2007 has started. This includes some topics related to space prizes as well as numerous other interesting space topics. I'm not there this year (I have been to some in the past, before starting this blog) and won't be sending updates during the conference, but I will try to provide a summary or links related to space prizes if the information becomes available from other sources.

For now, anticipate the following (this is just the prize-related material, which hardly scratches the surface):

According to Personal Spaceflight, there will be a Sunday afternoon session devoted to Centennial Challenges and the X PRIZE Foundation (hey, maybe I would have gone if I knew about this, but I didn't notice it on the schedule).

Sunday, May 27: NSS/Ames Space Settlement Contest Winners (from the ISDC program)

James Patrick Baen Writing Contest

Arts in Space Awards

I'm not sure who will be posting on the event, but it sounds like Jeff Foust at Personal Spaceflight (and other sites), Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log, and Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings (all linked on the right) will be there and presumably posting. There are enough sessions and tracks that you will probably want to check multiple sites.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reasonably large number of posts from Unreasonable Rocket

RLV News has been posting on some increased posts by Lunar Lander Challenge competitor Unreasonable Rocket:

Fabricating our first vehicle, a post that includes lots of details and links to the parts vendors

A trip to DC to find no Unreasonable Requirements from the AST

Unreasonable Rocket T-shirts

I just have to recommend that you check often with all of the Lunar Lander Challengers' web sites for the lastest. I have a hunch that it will be hard to keep up, as it was last year, when the challenge date approaches.

Update on May 24: AST News with some thoughts on what one writes when going through the AST paperwork process (link from RLV News)

American Astronautical Society scholarships

The AAS offers a $10,000 scholarship (and a $3,000 scholarship) to the International Space University. They also present a number of space awards.

Planetary Society Apophis Design Challenge updates

The Planetary Society has made 2 important announcements since the last time I reported on the Apophis Design Challenge to design a space mission to tag asteroid Apophis. First, a change was made to the rules to clarify a point about the tracking accuracy of the asteroid tagging method. Also, the Society announces that over 100 individuals and teams have registered in the competition.

Update on May 24: According to Spaceref, the Planetary Society released a press release today on the widespread interest in the competition. (I originally got the information from their Apophis Design Challenge web site).

Million Dollar Prize for Cancer Research Ideas

Yahoo News tells about a new $1 Million prize for ideas to fight cancer. The ideas will be judged by an expert panel. It's a bit of a different take on the innovation incentive idea - instead of an easy to measure technical challenge, this attempts to bring forth numerous ideas whose quality can be judged. In addition, the existence of the ideas can help match researchers with funders, even if the ideas can't all win the prize. The prize is called the Gotham Prize for Cancer Research, and the intention is for this to be an annual prize. There is also a $250,000 prize, the Ira Sohn Conference Foundation Prize, set aside for fighting cancer for children (the larger prize can also be in this area).

The Planetary Society Apophis Asteroid tagging design challenge takes a similar approach. It's a bit too challenging to require an actual asteroid mission, so the prize is for the design, which then must be judged.

More Regolith Excavation Challenge Videos

Ken Davidian has posted the following, representing the teams that competed in the 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge (check the Regolith Challenge link below for previous videos in the series, or search around YouTube):

Mendenhall Video Compilation

UMR Video Compilation

Tech Ranch Tornado Video Compilation

Pulk Video Compilation

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Archon X PRIZE for Genomics video

The X PRIZE Foundation presents a video on their Genomics Prize. (The video is also available at the prize's main web page, where you can also see some comments by Stephen Hawking and others on the prize). In addition to giving the background on the Genomics prize, the video has some space-related comments and video clips. This, and much more information about the Genomics X PRIZE, is described by the Genetic Genealogist. You can read about the history of the effort before the X PRIZE Foundation got involved, and also follow up on all of the registered competitors to date. A hint is given at the end of the post about several anticipated future posts on the subject.

In other Archon X PRIZE for Genomics news, the X PRIZE Foundation announces that a new member of the prize's Scientific Advisory Board.

Spirit of St. Louis

Transterrestrial Musings informs us that this past weekend was the 80th anniversary of one conclusion of one of the most famous innovation prizes, the Orteig Prize, which concluded with Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis.

2007 Moon/Mars Blitz and Centennial Challenges

The Space Review has an interview with Chris Carberry, who is organizing the next Capitol Hill Moon-Mars Blitz by the Space Exploration Alliance of space interest groups. The Blitz will advocate Congressional appropriations support for NASA's VSE, but will also address public-private space issues like NASA funding for COTS and Centennial Challenges.

Results from Team American Rocketry Challenge

Here are some reports on the results of the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

- Rocket Jones reports from the perspective of being there all day at the event. Will Germany make a challenge like this one?

- AIA Press Release on the results of the challenge. The winning team is from Newark (California) Memorial High School.

- A speech at the event from Secretary of Defense Gates.

- Full list of results from Rocketry Planet.

The top 25 winning teams will be invited to the NASA SLI, organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. No, not the Space Launch Initiative; that was cancelled! It's the Student Launch Initiative.

Update: Spaceref passes along a press release about Rolls-Royce North America support for the rocketry challenge.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Nova presents the Great Robot Race

Cosmic Log sends us on a weekend field trip to The Great Robot Race. This is an hour long show by Nova about the original DARPA Grand Challenge in desert terrain, predescessor of the DARPA Urban Challenge. It was originally aired last year, and is showing on May 22, 2007. It can also be viewed online at the link above. What might be even more interesting to the web surfers that made it here is the online video clip collection and other information about the challenge.

Wired Interview with Shana Dale and Pete Worden

Wired has an interview with NASA's Shana Dale as well as with Pete Worden from NASA Ames. The interview covers a lot of ground, including some space prize subjects like the recent Astronaut Glove challenge, the Regolith Excavation challenge, and the SpaceShip One X PRIZE flights. These prize subjects are sprinkled around a lot of other material. A lot of the rest of it shows the context of the prizes, including other NASA interactions with commercial and entrepreneurial ventures like the COTS arrangements with SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler, the NASA Ames Space Act agreeements with Silicon Valley companies like Google, and work with Bigelow Aerospace.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lunar Miners Finale

The UMR Lunar Miners have a finale of a post that gives more details about what happened at the 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge. It sounds like they will be back again next year for another go at the challenge.

Team America Rocketry Challenge

The Team America Rocketry Challenge first round will be held today, according to RLV News and the NASA Watch calendar. This is a model rocket competition involving caring for an egg payload and trying for high altitude for middle school and high school students. Scholarships, a trip to the Paris Air Show, and other prizes are up for grabs. The contest site is here. The Aerospace Industries Association site also has a number of pictures and articles about the challenge on the home page, at least at the time of this posting. Here is a PR article about the contest.

The AIA has a comprehensive page with tons of photos and articles about the challenge.

Space Media Subscription Prize

RLV News directs us to a set of space media promotion prizes being offered by New Forks in Grand Forks ND, including a Zero-G ride. Previously they awarded a space journalism prize.

Orion Propulsion's Tim Pickens

Transterrestrial Musings has a new post about an article from Air and Space magazine about Tim Pickens from Orion Propulsion. The article covers his work with HARC to try to win the CATS prize, and covers in detail later work involving the X PRIZE. In addition it mentions some of the rocket vehicles he's shown at the X PRIZE Cup. It also covers a lot of other interesting and fun-sounding work Tim has done.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Regolith Excavation Challenge on YouTube

Ken Davidian, manager of the NASA Centennial Challenges program, of which the 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge is a part, has posted a number of videos on the challenge event:

Uncovering the Lunar Regolith Sandbox

University of Missouri-Rolla Description

TechRanch Tornado - Back End

TechRanch Tornado - Front End

Mendenhall BFD Operations

Duplex Engineering Excavator

Saturday May 19 Update: In comments on an RLV News post on these videos, Ken says he may be able to post more videos like these later. (One imagines that he's a busy person). Also note that he may also post some videos from the recent Astronaut Glove Challenge. Talk about an efficient low overhead cost Centennial Challenges program - the manager of the program doing the videos of each Challenge!

Update on May 20: Here's another one: Lunar Miner at NASA 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge

Check the "regolith challenge" link below for more on the Excavation Challenge.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Annual CanSat Competition

The Spaceref Calendar informs us of a Student CanSat Competition to be held Jun 8-10, 2007 in Texas. The CanSat Competition is sponsored by a number of organizations including the American Astronautical Society, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Universities Space Research Association, and the National Space Grant Consortia. The competition is for high school and university students in North America, and allows them to get experience with the full process of concept design to operation. The Competition rules specify certain requirements for CanSat weight, size, position during and after flight, telemetry, and other factors. Bonus points are given for operation of a camera and for landing at a specified location. The teams go through a series of steps similar to professional aerospace engineering phases like PDRs and CDRs. Prizes include $2500 for the winning team, $1500 for 2nd place, then $1000, $750, and $500 for the next 3 spots.

Check here and here for some CanSat launch photos and a video from past years.

Let's hope the CanSat competition winners will also soon be able to get some really high launches on Masten CanSats.

More Space Prize Info from 2007 ad Astra

And now for a final post on the summer 2007 ad Astra! The issue has an article on what they call the "Rocket Belt". That's the Southwest from California to Texas and Oklahoma. The article mentions Lunar Lander challenger Armadillo Aerospace and their Pixel vehicle. It also mentions the X PRIZE Cup, and America's Space Prize sponsor Bigelow Aerospace. The article is more on commercial space (especially entrepreneurial space access), but space prize references (whether mentioned outright or not) are there throughout. I found it interesting overall (don't think space prizes are the end-all to me; concentrating on that niche in this blog just helps me keep it focused, both in terms of content and time spent).

There is also an opinion article on NASA's need to keep the NIAC (NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts). NASA has been shedding a lot of capability since starting ESAS and not getting expected budget increases for ESAS. Unfortunately a lot of the capability shed has been what many would call the "meat and bones" of NASA, and dollar per dollar the most productive parts of NASA, rather than what one might want to shed. NIAC may be an example of this, and this article makes the case that NASA needs NIAC (a $4 million program). One of the arguments is that NIAC work has led to benefits to the work of the Air Force, X PRIZE Foundation, and NASA Centennial Challenges.

No links this time ... this is from a hard-copy version of ad Astra. For the details you'll have to get the magazine. Maybe you'll be able to find the articles on's ad Astra site.

NSS ad Astra on 2007 Space Settlement Art Contest

Another article in the summer 2007 ad Astra I want to mention is one on the NSS Space Settlement Art Contest (earlier post here). You can see the art on the link I provided, but it's one thing to see it on a computer screen, and another to see it in print (especially the winner which gets a 2-page presentation in the magazine). As I said in the previous post, you can get ad Astra to see what I mean. In this case, according to the article, you can also see some of the pieces if you get the NSS Space Settlement 2008 calendar.

NSS 2007 ISU Scholarship winners

The National Space Society has had a number of competitions and awards, including one for scholarships to the International Space University. The summer 2007 edition of their ad Astra magazine has an article on the two winners of this year's $10,000 scholarship competition. Karina Drees is (or was) an M.B.A. student at MIT and follower of the X PRIZE. She worked with the Mojave Air and Space Port. She is going to the ISU summer program to prepare for a career in space entrepreneurship. Amanda Stiles worked with SEDS and the Yuri's Night event. Her background is in aerospace engineering from the University of Washington and NASA JSC. For more I guess you'll have to get ad Astra (join the NSS). Congratulations to the winners and thanks to NSS for help with space education.

Regolith Challenge Videos from TechRanch

RLV News has a post on the TechRanch Regolith Excavation entry I've posted about recently. The leader in this year's Regolith Challenge has posted some videos of an earlier version of their excavator, as well as some comments on the challenge. Check back on the TechRanch site later, because they plan to post more pictures and information.

Colorado School of Mines Lunar Ventures Competition

Here's another one from Space for All. The Colorado School of Mines is sponsoring a student lunar business plan competition focused on lunar businesses. There is the potential for a large investment for a good enough business plan. Also planned for the winning team are $25,000 and services. Three other teams will get $3000, and all 4 teams will be able to present their plans to space industry and government leaders. The goal of the competition is to foster teams of engineers, scientists, and business people to work together to make viable space businesses. The final round of the competition will be next weekend (ie May 19-21 2007). Here is how the presentations and judging are expected to go.

The experience is intended to be like that of a start up seeking investment funding. The businesses are intended to be near-term ones - perhaps businesses that can start on Earth but also be applicable to the moon.

Since I'm reporting on this competition well after its start, the list of finalist teams and descriptions of their business plans is available. You can see that most if not all of the business plans involve businesses on the Earth that can also be used on the moon. See the Space for All post or Out of the Cradle for a link to a news article on the finalist teams. Here's an article specifically on the finalists from Colorado.

PISCES Lunar Outpost Student Design Competition

The HobbySpace Space for All has a post about a lunar outpost design competition for students. Being a part-time student myself, I'm always interested to find out about such competitions. This one is run by PISCES, the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems. The International part of it is that it is a collaboration between Japan and the U.S., based in Hawaii (in particular the University of Hawaii, Hilo).

The competition is mainly for university undergraduate and graduate students. The designs can be at the lunar outpost architecture level, or at the level of subsystems, such as ISRU designs, lunar vehicles, lunar robotics, life support, and many others. There will be a conference in November in Hawaii, and PISCES will support some travel costs to competitors, depending on how well their reports perform, to attend the meeting.

FLORIDA SPACErePORT has more information about PISCES (see the article on Hawaii and the Final Frontier).

Interestingly, this is a single competition, but the web site page is "competitions". That may not mean a thing, but maybe someone there has more such competitions in mind?

NASA Aeronautics Essay Contest winners

A while ago I posted on the NASA Aeronautics Essay Contest. Now, Spaceref reports on the high school winners of the 2007 version of the contest. The list of winners is presented at a NASA web site. There is also a university-level competition.

IEEE Spectrum discusses Automotive X PRIZE Meeting

From the X PRIZE Foundation web site's news ticker comes news of an article in the online IEEE Spectrum on a meeting to develop the Foundation's Automotive X PRIZE draft rules.

NASA Discussion on Space Ads

In recent posts (and here) I've discussed a Congressional proposal to use ads on NASA missions to fund, or supplement funding for, NASA Centennial Challenges. I think this discussion provided by NASA Watch gives some insight into NASA Administrator Griffin's thoughts on this kind of approach.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

2007 DARPA Urban Challenge update

The San Jose Mercury News reports on some teams local to Silicon Valley that advanced to the next round of DARPA's 2007 Urban Challenge, a competition to develop robotic vehicles that can work in urban traffic environments. The competition will be held in November. The winner of the previous (but non-urban) challenge, the Stanford Racing Team, is one of these competitors. It includes contributions from Stanford's computer and engineering departments whose past students include many famous entrepreneurs, including the ones in charge of the blog software I'm using. You can see on the Stanford Team's sponsorship page that the Google folks remember their roots. (Well, it wasn't all that long ago). Take a look at the Stanford Team's web page; you can see it's a major effort.

The Mercury News article also mentions the Sydney-Berkeley Driving Team (the news article and DARPA put Berkeley first; the team puts Sydney first), again with some pretty impressive team member bios and sponsors. The final team mentioned is Team Orange, again obviously a big effort. Fundraising was made easier for many of the teams by $1 million grants from DARPA.

There are too many teams for me to describe, but DARPA has a list of links to the various registered competitors' web pages.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Regolith Challenge Results

The Santa Maria Times reports that 4 teams were able to compete at the actual Regolith Excavation Challenge, but none were able to win the prize this year. There is also a picture of Buzz Aldrin looking on as a competitor works with their robot on the challenge, and news in the article about the ROBO Challenge for students.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Technology Ranch of Pismo Beach was able to excavate over 65kg, but needed to reach 330 pounds to win. I'm not sure why they used different units in the same article (I hope they're not designing space probes on the side) but you can do the conversion here. The Technology Ranch link shows that they plan to set up a web site for their contender, so check back on that site later. Their Technology Ranch blog is the one I posted on a few days ago, where they noted that they decided to enter the challenge just a few weeks ago. Good job for such a late start -- imagine what they (and the other teams) will be able to do next year, with $750,000 on the line instead of $250,000, a year more to work on their designs (and sponsorships and so on), and the practical experience of having gone through the challenge once already. Now ... how does one go about getting some of that lunar simulant to help the development/testing process?

Update: Here's the final report from the University of Missouri-Rolla team. From their report it sounds possible that Launch Magazine will have an article on the challenge. That's just my speculation - you'll have to get the magazine to find out for sure!

New Scientist has an article with a couple pictures from the challenge. It also has some details on what happened with each team. One had problems with getting their excavator shipped across the country to get to the challenge site. I seem to remember hearing about another shipping problem at the 2006 X PRIZE Cup's Space Elevator Games. New Scientist also has another article that also has 2 (different) pictures from the challenge. Both articles mention plans from the teams to return to the challenge next year, and this article expresses the expectation that next year there will be even more challengers and NASA interest.

See the "regolith challenge" label below for more posts on this event.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Buzz Aldrin Expected at 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge

The glittering Santa Maria Fairpark Events Page I mentioned a few posts ago now has an interesting update: Special Guest Buzz Aldrin is expected to be at the challenge. That's in addition to NASA Ames director Pete Worden and 30th Space Wing Commander Col. Stephen Tanous. They've also added the California Space Authority logo prominently on the page.

The University of Missouri-Rolla has an Engineering team called the UMR Lunar Miners that will be at the challenge. The link also gives a picture of their regolith excavation robot. Here are some posts about their journey to California. If you go or recently went to school there, and have the time and talent, you might want to find out if the team plans to try for next year's challenge with this Lunar Miners job/help posting.

Here's an I-Newswire post that features some interesting comments by one of the contenders for the prize. One of the commenting teams is from Michigan. Another is from Livermore, California - Iris Systems, Incorporated.

The article also notes that there will be a lot of interesting exhibits at the challenge event, so if you're nearby, go ahead and check it out, and while you're there, take some pictures and post them online, will ya, because I can't get there! also has an article on the challenge with other comments by contenders for the prize. You'll also see a picture of the UMR Lunar Miner's excavation robot, as well as a picture of some of the tons of lunar regolith (dirt) simulant being put in the test area.

Previous Space Prizes posts on the Regolith Excavation Challenge:

Most Recent Updates on the Challenge

Miscellaneous Updates on the upcoming challenge

California ROBO Challenge for students held at the event

long post on Ken Davidian's Space Access '07 talk on Centennial Challenges giving the perspective of where the Regolith Challenge fits in the overall program (starting pretty far into the post), what the plans are in future years (500K prize purse next year), and how they're dealing with all that regolith simulant.

See the "regolith challenge" label below for more posts on this event.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rocket Racing League News

RLV News has a number of recent posts on the Rocket Racing League. First, on the down side, one of the teams withdrew from the league. (That post has a couple other articles, including more that you can consider a followup from my previous post on Armadillo). Following up on that news, the RRL announces a new team. (Did they hold off on that announcement to counter the bad news? Who knows). Cosmic Log has a post that covers all of this news and some other RRL background.

I was thinking about whether or not this news is pertinent to Space Prizes. I decided it is because of all of the (2nd-order?) space prize relationships. First, the RRL plans are to demonstrate their rocket racers at the X PRIZE Cup, obviously a venue related to, but not limited to, space prizes. Second, one of the RRL founders is Peter Diamandis, who helped make the X PRIZE and won the Heinlein Prize. Third, XCOR is a major supplier for the RRL, and they had their own prize for an engine component. Finally ... well, I'm just guessing that there will be some kind of prizes (not innovation incentive prizes which are the focus here, but space-related prizes nonetheless) for the race winners, and possibly other prize angles, too.

So I now move the RRL into the "fair game for posting" category.

Armadillo Updates

RLV News keeps us up to date on Armadillo Aerospace, one of the X PRIZE Cup Lunar Lander Challengers that plans to be back at the 2007 event. There is also another recent update here on Armadillo, on some Air Force business. Here's my summary of John Carmack's Space Access '07 talk.

Another Past Centennial Challenges Presentation

Like this post, here's another past past Centennial Challenges presentation, so you can get an idea of what their plans were at that time, and what they still might be planning if they get some more funding. This one is from Spring 2006. It suggests ways for Space Grant organizations to get involved with Centennial Challenges. Check out the challenges they were, and may still be, planning - they are pretty interesting.

A Non-Cynical Congratulations

... from the Space Cynics.

Grand Engineering Challenges

Cosmic Log posts about the Grand Challenges Ahead for engineers. These aren't necessarily prize-related challenges, but the Ansari X PRIZE and the DARPA Grand Challenge are mentioned as examples of past challenges. The article is on work being done by the National Academy of Engineering to investigate Grand Engineering Challenges to spotlight for this century. All of the analogies for future challenges mentioned in the article were prize-related: 2 X PRIZE Foundation challenges (the Archon Genomics X PRIZE and the Automotive X PRIZE) and the DARPA Urban Challenge. Some of the other challenges mentioned also sounded similar to past, present, or proposed prize challenges, such as the Grainger potable water challenge and the Virgin Earth Challenge.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More News Leading to Regolith Excavation Challenge

The 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge will be held at the Santa Maria Fairpark, and the Santa Maria Times has an article about the upcoming event. They mention thath "This weekend's event is expected to draw BBC radio, New York Times Magazine, Wired magazine, and Discovery Channel". also has a writeup on the challenge - titled "Digging Moon Dirt" for $250,000 - Anyone Need a Job?. Speaking of Mars, the Mars Society also is posting what looks like a press release on the event (maybe the same one I've already linked to elsewhere).

Here's a blog post by someone who says they're entering the challenge. We'll know more about how serious they were in a few days ... the home towns of the competitors are listed in a press release, and there are 3 in California, but I don't see any listed that are close to Santa Maria. Maybe that registration fee came into play?

See the "regolith challenge" label below for more posts on this event.

Empirical Systems Aerospace has a short news article on their role in the challenge.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Regolith Excavation Challenge on May 12

Fast on the heels of the Astronaut Glove Challenge, the NASA Centennial Challenges Regolith Excavation Challenge is scheduled to be held on May 12, 2007 (just a few days). The ROBOChallenge for students is also planned at the same time. Here is the NASA press release. This has more information, including some about the teams that plan to compete: "Teams from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Livermore, Calif., Berkeley, Calif., Fulks Run, Va., Rolla, Mo., Berkley, Mich., Milwaukee, and Vancouver, British Columbia, have registered to participate in the challenge."

The ever-reliable RLV News already gave us a reminder on the challenge a couple days ago. The California Space Authority, which is running the competition for NASA, has posted some interesting information about the challenge (recently, I think).

The agenda shows some major speakers at the event. Pete Worden (Director of NASA Ames and achiever of many other NASA and Air Force and probably other accomplishments) will give a talk there, and Col. Stephen Tanous (Commander, 30th Space Wing of the U.S. Air Force, ie Vandenberg Air Force Base) will also give a talk. Here's a press release on the speakers.

They also show on the sponsors page a few more sponsors, including interestingly Launch Magazine. I've been thinking about subscribing to Launch, and now I'll have to think about it more actively. Santa Maria Fair Park, where the event will be held, has a glittering events page with the Regolith Challenge (currently) on the list.

See the "regolith challenge" label below for more posts on this event.

Rotary National Award for Space Achievement

Spaceref posted a press release on the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement. Money is raised during the ceremony and donated to aerospace education organizations. Check out the article and the RNASA site - you will recognize the winners. Many other space awards are also given at this event.

X PRIZE Cup with an Air Show

Personal Spaceflight has an article on the combination of the X PRIZE Cup and the Holloman Air Force Base air show. One concern discussed in the article and the comments is whether the space aspect of the show will be overwhelmed by the air show. I guess we will all have to go there and find out.

more on NASA Ads for Centennial Challenges

The Wall Street Journal Online has a short article on Representative Ken Calvert's proposal to have NASA fund the Centennial Challenge prizes with advertising revenue. This article was mentioned in the Space Frontier Foundation's April NewSpace News compilation. RLV News reports that JP Aerospace doesn't like the idea of having to compete with NASA for advertising business. In the Space Politics comments from a few weeks ago (linked by the RLV News post) I was concerned that companies like JP Aerospace would lose business if NASA went with this plan as is. I'm not sure how one might adjust the advertising plan in such a way as to address this concern and still bring in the money for Centennial Challenges. Anonymous on the Space Politics comments suggested that Congress should just fund the tiny Centennial Challenges program adequately the normal way.

Zero G flight student prize

NASA has a student competition for "Zero G" experiments. The winners of the competition get to go on NASA's "Zero G" plane to perform the experiments. Check out the video alongside the article. This article comes courtesy of a post, where the poster suggested that NASA should be using currently available commercial services (ie Zero Gravity Corporation's plane) for the actual flight.

New Competitor for Genome X PRIZE

From the X PRIZE Foundation site's news ticker comes an article about a new competitor, Reveo Inc, for the Archon Genomics X PRIZE. Other competitors include VisiGen Biotechnologies, Inc, the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, and 454 Life Sciences. Check the article for an overview of Reveo Inc's approach to winning the prize. You can find the links to all of the competitors' web sites, and also learn more about the competitors and their approaches to winning the prize, on the teams page.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Big Space Prize News: Astronaut Glove Challenge Won!

From RLV News comes the news that the first NASA Centennial Challenge win happened! There is also more information on the glove challenge win at another RLV News post that also discusses the next Centennial Challenge (in just a few days) - the Regolith Excavation Challenge. More on that soon ... I have a bit of work and end of semester activity going on ...

Out of the 6 registrants for the competition, 3 made it to the actual event. The winner was Peter Homer, who has a background in engineering and sales. An artist Theodore Southern was also one of the competitors. Pablo de Leon, a spacesuit expert, was on a team called MDLH that also had spacesuit professionals Garry Harris and Nik Moiseev.

I have more information about Pablo De Leon, who is well-known for working on space suits. In fact one of his test suits was the top story on Internet sites with news articles like at one point last summer. Here some background from the University of North Dakota. You can find more about his Ansari X PRIZE and X PRIZE Cup work here.

You can see some cool pictures of the competition at the article on the competition.

Here's a local Connecticut article from the Hartford Courant on the challenge, which was held in Windsor Locks, CT. This is a particularly nice article because it gives you some insights into the 3 competitors (and a 4th that may be back next time) and their different designs.

Here are some comments by Rand, who had the original idea.