Monday, January 29, 2007

a space prize and taxes

A number of sources are reporting on the space prize offered by Oracle for a suborbital ride to space that was ended because the taxes on the prize were too high for the winner to pay. Personal Spaceflight has some interesting notes about this widely publicized story.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Singapore TechX Prize

Singapore is offering a prize reminiscent of the DARPA Grand Challenge or the British Ministry of Defense Grand Challenge called the TechX Challenge. After the X Prize was won, I anticipated that prize would be followed by a number of similar, but incrementally more ambitious prizes. For example, I thought the next X Prize (whether offered by the X Prize Founcation, NASA, or some other organization) might be similar to the X Prize but for a somewhat higher flight, or for a more dramatic demonstration of quick turnaround, or for a larger number of passengers (or payload). As it turned out, the space prizes that have been announced have either been much more ambitious (Bigelow's America's Space Prize), arguably less ambitious and definitely completely different (NASA Centennial Challenges), or not following the model of prizes for achieving a specific technological challenge at all. I also did not expect to see many different organizations offer prizes in a similar domain like the military robotics prizes in any area but space access prizes. Finally, at that time I didn't expect the next prize from the X Prize Foundation to be the Genomics Prize. That is all part of the interest of these prizes -- it is as difficult to predict which ones will be offered next as it is for the sponsors to predict who, if anyone, will win their prize. I will be following certain non-space prizes like these, since I think their success or failure will have a great deal of influence on the success or failure of the space prize idea, as well as the approach of technology prizes in all industries with difficult technology challenges.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

update on energy prizes

The automotive X Prize and the government H Prize are discussed by Alan Boyle. This article gives an update on what has been happening as attempts are made to kick off these energy prizes. I guess the automotive X Prize seems to make more sense to me, since it doesn't come with a predefined idea of what the solution to the problem is. Check out the discussions after the article, too. One of the comments describes some of the advantages of well-designed technology prizes. Alan also posts a link to an article by Robert Zubrin (president of the Mars Society which is sponsoring the Mars Rover prize, and author of The Case for Mars which discusses Mars-related technology prizes). This article contrasts hydrogen cars and a policy of mandating that all cars support ethanol, methanol, and regular gas (a subject he wrote about about the time of the LAST State of the Union address). It doesn't mention prizes for either approach, but you can think of ways to design prizes to achieve real energy goals so that only technologies that are actually demonstrated to not have serious drawbacks like the ones he suggests for hydrogen are able to win the prize.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New X Prize Foundation President

Spaceref reports that the new President of the X Prize Foundation will come from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Some of the papers linked on the right, such as the "Prizes for innovation in African agriculture" efforts, are in part attempts to convince large foundations like the Gates Foundation to support technology innovation prizes in areas like agriculture, biotechnology, and the environment. I haven't seen much evidence that this idea is gaining a lot of traction in those circles at this point, though.

SpaceShipTwo ride prize

Here is a prize offered by Virgin Galactic and the Royal Aeronautical Society for suborbital space ride on SpaceShipTwo.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

DARPA Grand Challenge prize is back!

As reported in an earlier blog post, the 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge was in danger of losing the prize incentive that helped the original DARPA Grand Challenge succeed. The Challenge was still on, and in fact a number of contestant teams got grant money to enable them to mount serious development efforts, but the incentive to win for both the grantees and the other contestants was reduced to bragging rights and a trophy. For such a well-respected and publicized prize these incentives are significant, especially for an organization like a university where reputation counts in many ways, but a cash prize makes things interesting and competitive on a whole different level.

As it turns out, the DARPA Grand Challenge cash prize is back! Here is a DARPA news release that explains this turn of events. Out of the teams that meet the challenge (assuming there are any), the top teams will win $2 million, $1 million, and $500,000. That should give a lot of motivation for the contestants.

Heinlein Centennial

Kansas City will host the Heinlein Centennial on 07-07-07, 100 years after Heinlein's birth. Heinlein was a science fiction author who often wrote about space travel and space commerce. A large number of prominent people in the science fiction and space fields will be at the event, and some other science fiction events (the Science Fiction Research Association meeting and the John Campbell Conference and Awards) are scheduled in the same area during the event. Hopefully this will be a good opportunity for the 2 fields to work together and exchange ideas.

The Heinlein family set up the Heinlein Prize, awarded to the person with the most significant achievements in commercial space. Peter Diamandis, who set up the X Prize Foundation, won the first Heinlein Prize. Peter will be at the Heinlein Centennial. Also, Brian Binnie, one of the pilots of Space Ship One that won the X Prize, will be at the event.

March Storm, Rocketplane trip prize, home manufacturing

Space for All suggests a Centennial Challenge for a 3D rapid prototyping system similar to one described in New Scientist that can productively use lunar raw materials as input.

RLV News shows a press release from RpK about a suborbital space trip prize for the winner of a contest put together by Microsoft and Advanced Micro Devices.

ProSpace has opened registration for March Storm 2007, a grass-roots group visit to Congressional offices to advocate policies friendly to space commerce. On the agenda this year is "Prizes for Space Achievements".