Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Centennial Challenges in the 2009 Budget Proposal

From the Administration's 2009 budget document that was released yesterday, for Future Centennial Challenges (2007 and 2008 are shown for perspective):

FY 2007 - 0.0
FY 2008 - 0.0
FY 2009 - 4.0
FY 2010 - 4.0
FY 2011 - 4.0
FY 2012 - 4.0
FY 2013 - 4.0

Those figures are in millions - somewhat less than 1/4000th of NASA's total budget in future years (but even that's a lot more than Congress has actually been appropriating - $0.00 - in recent years...).

"Future Centennial Challenges

The Centennial Challenges program conducts prize competitions for revolutionary, breakthrough accomplishments that advance the Vision for Space Exploration and other NASA priorities. Some of NASA's most difficult technical challenges require novel solutions from non-traditional sources of innovations. By making awards based on actual achievements, instead of proposals, NASA is tapping innovators in academia, industry, and the public. This effort is modeled on successful past prize competitions, including an 18th century navigation prize, early 20th century aviation prizes, and more recent prizes offered by the U.S. government and private sector.

In 2007, a prize of $200,000 was awarded to an individual inventor in the Astronaut Glove Challenge for a new glove design that exceeded the performance of spacesuit gloves currently used by NASA. In the Personal Air Vehicle Challenge, seven prizes totaling $250,000 were awarded to three different competitors for demonstrating significant improvements in efficiency, noise reduction and other factors important to future aviation technology. In other challenges, such as the Lunar Lander, teams have demonstrated impressive technical capabilities and have come very close to meeting the demanding criteria for success. Overall, the amount of team diversity (representing small and large businesses, high school and university students, and enthusiastic hobbyists and garage mechanics) and the variety of technologies implemented exceeded Agency expectations.

As the prize purses increase, the amount of participation and level of technical maturity and ingenuity will also increase. In the past competitions where the prize purses were on the order of $300,000 each, it is estimated that the 10-15 participating teams represented an investment of $50,000 - $100,000 each. In the competition with a $2 million prize purse, teams invested on the order of $250,000 - $500,000 each.

Centennial Challenges is continually working with each of the NASA Mission Directorates to ensure that competitions selected are addressing the current set of NASA's technology priorities."