Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Save Centennial Challenges!

As noted in the November 22 entry, the Space Frontier Foundation has been planning to organize an effort to restore funding for NASA's Centennial Challenges space prizes that was lost in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Here is the SFF announcement of the effort, which includes support from the Space Exploration Alliance (an alliance formed not too long ago from various space industry groups and grass-roots organizations like the Planetary Society, the Mars Society, and the National Space Society), and the X Prize Foundation. These space advocate groups have a variety of interests, goals, and approaches to our future in space, so it is interesting to see that Centennial Challenge funding is an issue that they can all agree on. This isn't too unexpected, since they have all adopted the prize approach in one way or another in their own projects (see the various links on the right).

The Executive Directory of the NSS, George Whitesides, has some comments supportive of Centennial Challenges in the announcement. He also spoke favorably on the Challenges in a Space Show radio interview recorded around the time of the 2006 ISDC in a discussion that covered a lot of other ground.

Space Politics and HobbySpace/RLV News already have updates related to this announcement.

Update: Also see this post.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

NSS/NASA Space Settlement Contest

The Winter 2006 Ad Astra magazine from the National Space Society has an article about the 2006 NASA-NSS Space Settlement Contest. This contest is for students grade 6-12, and will be held again in 2007. The winning space settlement designs are featured on the NSS web page here and the NASA web page here. Resources for teachers are available at both sites.

Prize discussion on The Space Show

Dr. Jeff Bell was the guest on a recent Space Show radio broadcast. An important part of the interview concerned prizes, including the Wirefly X Prize Cup Centennial Challenges prize attempts and NASA's Centennial Challenges in general. Dr. Bell is critical of Centennial Challenges, but he doesn't seem to have an objection to the concept of these space prizes or how they are managed. Instead, his main criticism is that the prize award for Centennial Challenges is too low, which is more of a political criticism than a management one. As a result of the low prize value (compared to other space projects), the prizes are not ambitious enough to make the essential advances the space community needs. Dr. Bell also thinks the larger NASA COTS contracts with mandatory milestones rather than a cost-plus approach are too small to achieve their objective (commercial ISS resupply), even with associated private investments. It's true Centennial Challenges is a tiny part of the government space budget, and larger, more ambitious space prize competitions would be welcome by prize supporters. This year's X Prize Cup happened not long after the Lunar Lander Challenge was started (by space industry project standards), so it will also be interesting to see how much progress the competitors have made by next year's event.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More Politics and Centennial Challenges

There have been more blog discussions about the Senate Appropriations committee eliminating Centennial Challenge prize funding for new NASA prize competitions planned for 2007. The Senate and House will have to reconcile their differences on this issue, and apparently a lot of people interested in space want to make sure the new prizes are funded. Rick from the Space Frontier Foundation is asking constituents to convince their Senators (especially if they are on the Appropriations Committee) to fund the NASA space prizes. The SFF tends to only support the most productive fraction of government spending, which is an indication that the prizes are being run efficiently and deserve to be continued. Here are some ideas from a poster at HobbySpace on making your voice heard.

This is for U.S. voters, but it would be interesting to see other government space programs try prizes. Many of the classic technology prizes were offered by European sponsors. Is anyone from ESA listening?

Stay tuned because I think there will be more to come ...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

National Space Society Space Art contest

I got a mass email from the NSS (NSS Downlink Issue #68) that describes an NSS Space Art contest. The theme is space settlements, divided by location (orbit, asteroids, Moon, and Mars). There are 12 prizes of varying levels, including cash, software, suborbital launch of a small object, and having the art published in the 2008 NSS Space Settlement Calendar.

ISRU Centennial Challenge update

Spaceports has an interesting update on the MoonROx challenge. If you want to learn more about the subject so you can try to win a quarter of a million dollars, look up "Resources of Near-Earth Space" from the Space Science series from the University of Arizona. Even if you don't win you'll be well on your way to a Chemical Engineering degree.

Politics and Centennial Challenges

Here are some blog discussions about Centennial Challenges and Congressional funding:

- Space Politics has a discussion on what has actually happened between NASA and Congress in the area of new Centennial Challenges

- Space Politics also has an earlier discussion on Centennial Challenges funding

- RLV News has a related discussion here here and here