Thursday, December 24, 2009

NASA Innocentive Pavilion, Rocketry Award, Google Map Maker Competition, GeoVation, Selenokhod Interview, PT Scientists Twitter, More

@InnocentiveCEO - New $30K NASA Competition on! Data Driven Forecasting of Solar Events.

To expand on that tweet, here's the NASA Innovation Pavilion on Innocentive. Currently, the challenges there are:

Mechanism for a Compact Aerobic and Resistive Exercise Device - $20,000
Improved Barrier Layers ... Keeping Food Fresh in Space - $15,000
Data-Driven Forecasting of Solar Events - $30,000

Electronic Rocketeer December 2009 - National Association of Rocketry: This includes a description of a new prize, the NAR High Power Technology Award:

... a $500 award for the NAR member who has demonstrated the most outstanding innovation or accomplishment in a flight project (which flew during calendar year 2009) involving high power rocketry.

Also see the competition information on page 19 here: NAR This is Rocketry (2009) (PDF)

Here's a new twitter account I'll be adding to my Twitter list:

@PTScientists - New post at GLXP. Check us out at the 26C3!

@csf_spaceflight - Centennial Challenges, Spaceport Infrastructure, and Suborbital Science to Receive Funds from NASA & FAA:

@ikluft - Scientific American article on #DARPA Network Challenge, focus on MIT + GTRI, other teams similar

@tedprize - Search for extraterrestrial life gains momentum around the world -

Briefs: Team Selenokhod; 2009 space review; GAO on ISS - RLV News

Google Map Maker Global Competition - Google:

Add the most universities, schools, hospitals and medical clinics with high quality into Google Map Maker, and your efforts will win $50,000 for UNICEF's work empowering young people through technology in your homeland.

The winner also gets a VIP UNICEF tour, a trip to the Google Super Mappers conference, and their content added to Google Maps.

Links: GeoVation, Greenhouse gas world graph, Tiger Woods home - Google Earth Blog - This link collection includes:

GeoVation: GeoVation, the Ordnance Survey-supported community aiming to promote innovative uses of geography, launched its competition in October by asking people to think of how mapping could help address some of the world's big challenges. ...

From the NASA Aeronautics Design Challenges/Competitions page:

NASA Aeronautics 2009-2010 Student Competition Focuses on Rescue Rotorcraft
High school and college students are invited to explore how rotorcraft can be even more effective in rescue operations. ...

To meet rescue and firefighting requirements, the vehicles should be amphibious, carry 50 passengers, and gather/expel water. The University level involves a design; the high school level involves either a design or an analysis of capabilities.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Space Prize Acronym Roundup: NSS via SF, SFF, AAS, GLXP, LCPA, NASA, R&D Mag, PISCES, MAAV (IARC team), E.R.P.S. on MSS and NG-LLC, ISEC, C-MITES

This one isn't new, but I don't recall seeing it before: Astronaut Glove Challenge video

While we're at it, here's one from this year's glove challenge: 2009 Astronaut Glove Challenge
and here's one from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Hands in Space.

Taking space science to the streets - R&D Magazine Blogs

The Mission Overview - Major Tom Goes to Hawaii - The winning team from the 2009 PISCES Design Competition, from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, gives an overview of their design for a reusable cargo transportation system to the lunar surface.

SFF planning Capitol Hill campaign for February - RLV News - The agenda includes

Increased funding for the Centennial Challenges space prize program

NASA in need of a major overhaul - Houston Chronicle -

... What's needed is a transformation that encourages an entrepreneurial, rather than bureaucratic, culture. ... Google recently put some $30 million in award money on the table for teams able to land a robotic lunar rover on the moon as part of the X Prize Foundation's efforts to stimulate activity in spaceflight and exploration. Responding to the call have been nongovernment teams from Germany, Russia, China, Italy, Denmark, Romania, Canada and the U.S. This should stand as an indicator of where the NASA mission is headed. ... As NASA transitions to a new, younger workforce in the next decade, let us hope it begins rewriting its rules to inspire these individuals to achieve the sort of successes the X Prize winners are achieving ...

Heinlein Award Balloting - SF Site

LunaTrex name now defunct - The Herald Bulletin

The LCPA Extreme Science Program of the Latino College Preparatory Academy includes rocketry (including participation in the Team America Rocketry Challenge), robotics (including participation in the StRUT Competition involving recycling computers), Aeronautics, and many other science and technology fields.

AAS Imagine '09: Google Lunar X PRIZE by William Pomerantz - Slideshare

Here's a new International Aerial Robotics Competition team: MAAV (Michigan Autonomous Aerial Vehicles).

General Meeting #345 - Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society - From the meeting minutes:

Michael suggested we think about a Pogo Mark2 vehicle capable of performing a Conrad Square (up, hover, translate, hover, land). The recently completed Lunar Lander Challenge (won by former E.R.P.S. President Dave Masten’s company – Masten Space Systems) demonstrated just such capabilities. Unreasonable Rockets (a father and son team) got hardware in the air using peroxide. ...

More YouTube videos - The Space Elevator Blog

My presentation at the 2009 EuroSpaceward Conference - The Space Elevator Blog - The slide presentation on ISEC on mentions some proposed ISEC academic prizes starting in 2010. From the blog post:

... Our next major goal is to get these academic competitions up and running. We are very fortunate to have the two modern “fathers” of the Space Elevator, Yuri Artsutanov and Jerome Pearson agree to have our academic prizes named after them. We have a team of physicists and engineers ready to review the academic submissions. ...

Design an Experiment for the Space Station! – Deadline February 19, 2010 - Teaching with Contests blog describes the "Kids in Micro-g!" challenge:

The ten regional winners, one national winner and one national runner-up winner will have their experiments conducted by the astronauts on board the space station in the April-May 2010 timeframe.

Here are a couple lists of competitions that include space and many other fields:

Innovation Contests - Extended Business Solution - The links in this one aren't working for me, but search engines like Google's should allow you to quickly find the competitions you're interested in.

Links for Parents and Educators - Contests - C-MITES - Carnegie Mellon Institute for Talented Elementary and Secondary Students

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Prize Tweet Collection and Some Speculation

@doug_comstock - NASA Year in Review 2009, 15 highlights include IPP's Spinoffs and Prize winning rockets! Vote for your favorite:

@ad_astra2 - Yay X PRIZE Lab students!] RT @MITNews: How to spur energy storage innovations (an X-prize maybe?):

@fineri - - Suborbital rocket design, many a long night spent on solidworks! good to start building.

@makerfaire - Maker Faire gets sustainability award nomination: We just found out that Maker Faire Bay Area has been nominated ...

@AirshipZ - NASA Green Aviation Workshop Report Published ~ Airship Z-Prize project included on page 18

@lunaci - Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #4 is up! Merry GLXP-mas :)

@unrocket - Going out to far to watch rockets and for xmas bbq and to pick up blue ball.

@lksurley - X PRIZE and Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge mentioned in NASA Year in Review AND Discover lists X PRIZE in Top 100 Stories of 2009.

@soldthemoon - The Science Insider about Obama's decision also says landers and habs go to intl. partners - would reduce NASA interest in GLXP services.

That last one is fun to speculate about. Here's my take on it. The Augustine Committee final report suggested using commercial services such as derivatives of Google Lunar X PRIZE and Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge capabilities in the Flexible Path for some lunar lander components when commercial capabilities have matured enough to enable such components. I could see several scenarios related to the above tweet:
  • NASA is seriously interested in lunar surface work, and is just bringing in international participation to allow more overall achievements in deep space and on the lunar surface. In this case lunar robotics derived from the Google Lunar X PRIZE would still be of great interest to NASA. Also, international partners could still encourage commercial participation in the international landers.
  • NASA is not interested in lunar surface work, and just wants to check off a few boxes (Earth-Moon Lagrange Points, lunar orbit, lunar surface) on the Flexible Path on its way to more distant destinations. International partners are interested in the lunar surface. In this case lunar robotics derived from the Google Lunar X PRIZE wouldn't be of as much interest to NASA. However, commercial lunar robotics and commercial lunar lander components would be of interest to the international partners building the landers and habs. It's important to remember that the Google Lunar X PRIZE is an international competition.
  • NASA is not interested in lunar surface work, and neither are the international partners - or at least not enough to develop astronaut lunar landers. In this case, there is no opportunity for commercial participation in the astronaut lunar lander since it wouldn't be built. However, there still could be enough interest in the lunar surface in NASA and/or in international partner agencies to result in space agency interest in commercial lunar surface robotics, since this would presumably be considerably cheaper than astronaut landers. The work from these robots could result in later increased interest in astronauts on the Moon from the space agencies.
  • NASA is interested in sharing costs with international partners, and is seriously interested in the lunar surface, but the partners aren't interested in the lunar lander role. In this case, we are back to the Augustine Committee Flexible Path recommendation with NASA lunar landers involving commercial components.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Full Week Space Prize Roundup

Here's the latest space prize roundup, covering about a week of activity.

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #3 - Luna C/I

NASA Centennial Challenges gets funding boost - RLV News

Fate of the Blue Ball.... - Unreasonable Rocket

An Unreasonable flight of the Blue Ball - RLV News

@spacecom: ATV Operations Team Wins Prestigious Gold Medal Prize: ESA's ATV team wins the Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Meda...

@NLSI - The talks from the Lunar Exploration and Analysis Group (LEAG) last month are up at

Here's an example: Robotic Prospecting, Exploration and Science (PDF) - Whitaker W.

@arielwaldman: Make: The definitive guide to open source hardware projects in 2009:

@NASA_Ames - [News] Students Hone Engineering Skills in Robotics Competition

Check out the "Prizes" tag from Jeff Foust's NewSpace Journal.

@flighthyperbola: UK to have outreach competition for new space agency's logo but the space budget is same as British National Space Centre's

@teslamotors - Win a road test of the 2010 Tesla Roadster Sport, then have your review published in High Gear Media:

Money Talks: Cash Prizes Spur Innovation - TriplePundit

Enloe Students compete in NASA Rocket Competition - Wake County Public School System

From the desert to space - COSMIC LOG

@conradawards - Deadline for entries for 2010 Spirit of Innovation Awards is 12/15--ENTER TODAY! #teacher #science #invention

Gallery: Sizing Up the Private Race to Space - Popular Science - Lots of companies and other organizations that won prizes, competed in prize competitions, or offered prizes are featured.

Embry-Riddle offers Scholarships in Science and Technology (PDF) - Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - This points out some competitions that students there are encouraged to participate in.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Space Access '010 - Initial Conference Information

Initial 2010 Space Access '010 Conference Info, 12/03/09. - Space Access Society:

The conference will be held from Thursday, April 8 (afternoon) to Saturday April 10 (evening) in Phoenix. See the link for more details. In the past this has been a good conference for updates on the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, N-Prize, and Beam Power competition, among others. The focus is on low-cost suborbital and orbital access to space, with an emphasis on commercial space, entrepreneurs, and small dedicated groups. Government agencies that deal with space are also represented, but most frequently through their interactions with commercial space access efforts. See the link for more details.

Here's a summary of Space Access '09 (with links to summaries for many earlier years).

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Prize Roundup: Red Balloons, Patches, Elevator Conference, Google Earth Town Models, Mars Pathfinder Innovation, More

Eurospaceward Space Elevator / Lunar Industrialization Conference

@SEGames I'm here at the 2009 EuroSpaceward conference. Among other topics, we'll get an update on the US and Japanese Space Elevator Games.

@SEGames Jordin Kare (from LaserMotive) and Martin Lades (from KC Space Pirates) are here and will also speak.

@SEGames I'm live-blogging the conference at

There's a lot more from SEGames twitter - the tweet from a couple minutes ago says Jordin Kare is speaking now. I don't have a hash tag for the conference, but SEGames, Eurospaceward, Ben Shelef, and some of the teams are at my Space Elevator Games Twitter List.

EuroSpaceward Conference - and the future of Space Elevator Development - The Space Elevator Blog

In Luxembourg… - The Space Elevator Blog:

... I’ve been chosen to judge a coloring contest - “How do you Imagine Life on the Moon?” - an event held as part of the EuroSpaceward conference. ...

Conference - Day 1 - and we’re underway - The Space Elevator Blog

As with the SEGames twitter, I've just selected a few of many posts. Check out The Space Elevator Blog for more.

DARPA Network Challenge (Red Balloons) - today!

@ikluft about 2000 people registered for #DARPA #NetworkChallenge - don't forget to have fun!

@ikluft I made a Twitter list of #DARPA #NetworkChallenge participants that I know of (41 so far)

Update on DARPA Network Challenge: @ikluft Congratulations to MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team for winning. We had 5 right 2 wrong #DARPA #NetworkChallenge

@ikluft updated Stratofox's #NetworkChallenge page: added "How we did" section, credits #DARPA


@TeamPrometheus 2 Tiny Satellites just arrived at the Rocket Ranch! Photo's tomorrow!

More Prizes and Competitions

Model Your Town - Google Earth Blog:

Google has just announced their first-ever "Model Your Town" Competition.

The goal is to get smaller cities to work on building their town in 3D. While every town will likely see their models in Google Earth, the winning town will win $10,000 for its schools, a Google-sponsored party, a video profile of the winning team and some other goodies. ...

See the Google Earth Blog link for a video with some examples of town models in Google Earth.

SGAC together with the UN-SPIDER have designated a winner of the “Disaster Management in the Caribbean” poster competition - Space Generation Advisory Council

NASA Student Launch - Space for All

NASA Moon Work Design Contest - Space for All

@collectSPACE Picking a patch for the program: NASA's employee contest to design a patch for the end of the space shuttle program...

Mission to Mars and Red Planet make John Scalzi’s list of worst SF films of decade - Marooned: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror books on Mars - From the Scalzi piece:

The year 2000 saw two competing Mars flicks, which struggled fiercely for the title of Most Likely to Set Back Manned Exploration of Mars by 50 Years. ...

Sci-Fri: NASA and Microsoft launch Martian website, use crowdsourcing to map Red Planet - Marooned: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror books on Mars - The Be a Martian! site includes the 2009 Pathfinder Innovation Challenge. Here are the contest rules (PDF). I couldn't figure out specifically what the various categories of contestants were meant to do from the rules, but the Participation Guide (PDF) explains it. Here's the summary:

... The Inspiration League invites Entrants 14 years and older to develop an episode for "The Martians" video series. Join the Scholarship League if you're over 14 and would like to build a compelling and exciting interactive web application for students and the rest of the world to learn about rocks on Earth and Mars. Entrants over age 18 in the Global Cooperation League will develop fun web games that crowd-source the task of finding and labeling interesting objects in an enormous set of images acquired by the Mars rovers. The Intelligence League challenges Entrants over age 18 to accomplish the same task with autonomous applications that can rapidly detect and label these interesting objects.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Stratofox and the DARPA Network Challenge

This Saturday, DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is holding the DARPA Network Challenge. DARPA describes this $40,000 challenge as

a competition that will explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.

The rules are on the site, but the basic idea is that DARPA will deploy 10 big numbered red weather balloons with official DARPA representatives on site at various locations across the U.S., and the winner will be the one to identify the locations of these balloons. DARPA expects the winner to need to form large, geographically dispersed but communicating teams to be able to find the balloons. There's also the possibility, if "reality TV" is any indication, that some competitors will try to publish misleading information about the balloon locations. Competitors can only submit a limited number of locations, which may make it difficult to simply trust locations that are made public without some sort of confirmation. Other complications and innovative approaches may be revealed on the day of the challenge.

You could see how certain aerospace technology, such as Google Earth or other geographical information systems technology, GPS, satellite telecommuncations, and remote sensing via satellite or airplane (or balloon?) might play a role in this challenge, but the predominant technology may be social media - especially if your team can get thousands upon thousands of people looking with you. The DARPA Network Challenge Wiki covers some possible strategies. Does the space community have the social organization and enthusiasm to get thousands of participants looking for balloons as they go about their regular Saturday activities?

One of the teams registered for the Challenge is Stratofox, a highly skilled amateur "aerospace tracking & recovery team". I've seen a couple Stratofox presentations at Space Access. The team has expertise in finding balloons, but under different circumstances - tracking and recovering high-altitude balloons. They often work with small rocket entrepreneurs and researchers. They certainly play a role supporting the type of innovative work that space prize competitions seek to encourage. Here's a detailed post from Stratofox on what they're doing with the DARPA Network Challenge and how to help them (especially if you see and confirm one of the balloons): DARPA Network Challenge 2009. There are also some twitter posts about it at @ikluft.

Here are some additional general information sources for the Challenge:

@DARPA_News (twitter)
Balloon hunt goes viral - Cosmic Log
Looking for Balloons and Insights to Online Behavior - New York Times: This one notes that we can expect more DARPA challenges in the future:

Dr. Lee said the agency would continue to pursue a number of large and small challenge-style contests to foster what he described as new ways to tap into pools of talented individuals and creative groups.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Look Back at the Regolith Excavation Challenge

Much More Than We Anticipated, Less Than We Deserved - Big Freewheeling Digger - This is a great summary of what this team encountered at the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge, including close calls, triumphs, and controveries. Looking ahead:

What next? In the short term, the team has been invited by NASA to participate in a in-situ resource utilization exercise this February. Fortunately, it is in Hawaii so the team can take some much needed rest after their work is complete. In the long term, I have been hoping to enter the NASA power beaming challenge with an approach unlike any fielded so far. ...