Thursday, January 31, 2008

An AXP Straggler

Here's one I missed from that earlier post.

The X PRIZE Foundation news scroller adds one more article to the comprehensive list from that X PRIZE Cars post. It's from the Oakland Business Review, and it's about the big auto companies and their glaring absence from the competition. You'll have to read the article to see why.

It's interesting to compare this to the Ansari X PRIZE, which the big aerospace companies sat out. However, when the dust settled, Virgin Galactic was there as a big customer to take the winner to production scale and Northrop Grumman was there for a buy-out (although conventional wisdom is that the purchase was more related to other Scaled Composites efforts that fit NG needs).

That's all well and good, but it would be interesting to get the big auto companies into the AXP competition. Could there be a 3rd category in the competition designed specifically for big automotive companies? Maybe this "big company" category would lower the MPGe requirement from, say, 100 MPG to 80 MPG. The tradeoff? Raise the required vehicles that can be produced to a much greater number, like 100,000 or more, and have more requirements to prove that this mass production will actually happen (is already happening). Since prizes on the order of $10M aren't a big deal to such huge companies, just make it $1M to show that it's a serious prize (leaving the rest for the entrepreneurs), and of course let them share in the media coverage.

End of January Automotive X PRIZE Roundup

The X PRIZE Cars blog has has a lot of posts in the last couple days. Two of the posts concentrate on teams Tilting Vehicle Australia and the Open Source Society for Sustainable Mobility. The third is a big news roundup with links to all sorts of articles and videos. Some of it is on vehicles that aren't actually registered for the competition, but that lean towards the goals that the competition is designed to achieve.

There's also a link there to an article that says Ray Sidney (formerly from Google) made a big donation to the AXP. Here's a version from CNet. Last August the X PRIZE Foundation had a press release that included the following, which confirms a donation then (I don't know if the article refers that that donation or a later one):

The AXP has recently finalized a supporting sponsorship from Adobe. Other early AXP sponsors and donors include Idealab, Ray Sidney of Big George Ventures, the Elbaz Foundation, and the Jack D. Hidary Foundation. Once fundraising for the prize purse and administration is complete, the AXP will officially launch.

“We are seeking assistance from major foundations, corporations and philanthropic individuals to help bring about this revolution in transportation,” Diamandis said. “Visionary individuals and organizations have risen to this type of challenge before by backing the Ansari X PRIZE for personal spaceflight, and the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics. We’re confident we can build a financial base for this competition as well, and expect one or more heroes to rise to this challenge.”

There's also a post with a number of related articles, including some on Tesla, at Space for All.

One of the links at the Space for All post is on one of many potential developments in alcohol fuels. Somewhat related, Transterrestrial Musings has a post that's critical of the way Robert Zubrin promotes his flex fuel car mandate idea for E85 and M85 support for all cars sold in the U.S. Although I agree with Rand about Zubrin's over-the-top argumentation style, I'm still pretty convinced Zubrin has a good idea that would accomplish a lot with a minimum of government interference after reading his Energy Victory book. Of course I went into the book knowing ahead of time what style to expect, and I therefore had "all shields up" to counter that style.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More on ISDC 2008

I just got the latest National Space Society Downlink #84 email. One of the topics covered is the ISDC 2008 Conference. I mentioned earlier that Peter Diamandis is scheduled to speak there; the Downlink also lists Anousheh Ansari and Robert Bigelow (2 major space prize sponsors) as speakers (Bigelow in the "invited" category). Of course there are plenty of other interesting speakers without such direct prize connections (that I happen to recognize).

The Downlink also lists the tracks at the conference. One of the tracks is "Prizes and Competitions". At first glance I like the distribution of track subject matter. Here's the full list:
  • Space Tourism
  • Prizes and Competitions
  • Space Business and Entrepreneurs
  • NASA's COTS Program
  • Lunar Exploration
  • Mars Exploration
  • Space Settlement
  • Space Solar Power
  • Space Law
  • Space Medicine
  • Space Environment and Space Weather
  • Near Earth Objects and Planetary Defense
  • International Space Programs

John McCain on an Energy Prize

When I was searching for candidate positions on innovation prizes, I missed this one from John McCain, probably because I didn't spend a lot of time on the search and this one doesn't have keywords like "prize" in it.

With some of the savings from cutting subsidies for industries that can stand on their own, we can establish a national challenge to improve the cost, range, size, and weight of electric batteries for automobiles. Fifty percent of cars on the road are driven 25 miles a day or less. Affordable battery-powered vehicles that can meet average commuter needs could help us cut oil imports in half. The reward will be earned through merit by whomever accomplishes the task, whether a laboratory in the Department of Energy, a university, a corporation or an enterprising young inventor who works out of his family's garage.

Science (and Technology!) Debate 2008

From Cosmic Log comes news of an effort to have a Presidential Debate on science and technology policy. There's no reason why space and/or innovation prizes wouldn't be part of such a debate.

Apophis Contest Winner To Be Announced Next Month

Spaceref and Science Daily both have a press release from the Planetary Society about Near-Earth asteroids and related Society projects like the Apophis Mission Design Competition to design a space mission to "tag" asteroid Apophis.

Nancy Conrad on the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award

Will Pomerantz at the X PRIZE Foundation adds more, mainly from Nancy Conrad, to his earlier post on the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award. From Nancy's contribution:

Our first year rocked and 2008 promises to be even more exciting ... We're going to have 2 Awards: Space Travel and Space Exploration and many other surprises.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The State of Prizes

This one from the Financial Times (and linked by the X PRIZE Foundation news scroller) gives a good summary of the state of innovation prizes, including the efforts of the X PRIZE Foundation like the Ansari X PRIZE, the M prize, and many historical prizes. It also discusses some very large prize/contract hybrids that may be offered by the Gates Foundation and governments to solve health-related problems.

There's also coverage of some of the academic and economic arguments about the pros and cons of prizes compared to grants, patents, and contracts.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Space Elevator Blog, E-T-C, and Trumpf

The Space Elevator Blog has a detailed interview with laser supplier Trumpf. They're in the business of (among other things of course) helping the Space Elevator Games laser teams. The post goes into some ideas on how a laser source could be designed to work at the distances and with the focus needed at altitudes relevant to a Space Elevator.

The discussion suggests a third Space Elevator Games challenge - cooling the beam power receiver in the vacuum of space.

The details of what Trumpf is offering to the teams are also discussed.

The blog also has a post on a video of E-T-C, one of the beam power teams. It looks like they must have stopped off at in New Mexico at the space museum along the way?

Unreasonable Post Trio

Unreasonable Rocket shows us the damage from the last crash of the helicopter, then restarts flights, and finally endures rain delays just like the giant rockets.

Political Links

Since this site does occasionally cover politics as it pertains to space prizes (for example, see the Politics tag below for other posts related to politics, and the Politics section on the right), I thought I'd follow the lead of Action for Space in this political season in the U.S. and add some relevant links on the right. These include email contacts for Presidential candidates in a new "Political Contacts" section and links to a couple of prize-related bills in the "Politics" section. I won't comment on the specifics of candidates or bills now (I have, however, discussed some of them in past posts). To keep neutral the candidate lists are in alphabetical order.

Of course emails and phone calls, while convenient, aren't the most effective way to express whatever your political convictions are. For example, candidates respond much better to personal contact like ProSpace's March Storm or, as Jim Muncy noted in this Space Show interview, volunteering in a campaign and influencing it from within.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ames and the Future City Competition

Spaceref presents a press release about the National Engineers Week Future City Competition for middle school students. The competition involves skills like teamwork, computer software like SimCity, presentations, math, and engineering. NASA Ames is hosting the Northern California regional competition.

Rocket Magazines

The Rocket Dungeon reviews 3 recent issues of rocket magazines: Rockets Magazine, Sport Rocketry, and LAUNCH Magazine. Competitions with prizes that are mentioned include the Team America Rocketry Challenge and the 2007 X PRIZE Cup. I just got my issue of LAUNCH today, so I can't give any comments of my own about it yet.

Armadillo Vehicle Updates and Plans

RLV News posts on the latest of Armadillo Aerospace's very comprehensive every-month-or-so updates, complete with photos and videos.

Lots of Big Donations for Methuselah Foundation

The Methuselah Foundation has been getting a lot of donations lately. It sounds like most of them are for traditional grants focused on the Foundation's anti-aging goals, but some of them are directed towards the Mprize, which has the same goals, but uses a different approach to achieve them.

Odyssey Moon at Accelerating Space Conference

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Robert Richards from Google Lunar X PRIZE team Odyssey Moon would be at the Accelerating Space Conference; now RLV News has a summary by guest John Kavanagh of his presentation.

Friday, January 25, 2008

JSC-1A Sandbox Opportunity

Is anyone interested in renting 8 tons of JSC-1A lunar regolith simulant?

Update (Feb 1): RLV News has this in a convenient format in case you find (as I do) PDF format to have some drawbacks.

The Speculist on Large Space Prizes

The Speculist posts on push prizes and getting to the Moon. It's in favor of relatively modest (in aerospace terms) space prizes like the Centennial Challenges, but suggests that the boundary where prizes are too ambitious is somewhere around the difficulty of the Lunar X PRIZE because there's a threshold of difficulty where challenges are too difficult for small teams, and large corporations with stockholder requirements can't risk going after the prizes.

I think there's probably a great deal of truth to this line of thinking. However, an extremely difficult prize can be designed to reduce this effect, for example by increasing the prize reward, reducing the risk by including second and third place prizes, including incremental sub-prizes that are stepping stones towards the big goal, and/or orienting the prize towards a goal that businesses would find attractive to address (just not quite enough to go after it without the prize) because of market potential. Another way of thinking about it is that there's no harm in offering a large prize even if you as the sponsor think there's only a 10% chance of anyone achieving the goal, since you don't have to pay if noone wins, and some of the competitors may make useful progress towards the goal even if they don't win.

The post links to a number of earlier posts from the same site on space prizes, such as this one that's only a day old about the organization in the space science community for a change in the Vision for Space Exploration to focus on astronomical satellite servicing at Lagrange points and exploring asteroids instead of the Moon. In that post, prizes are seen as a third alternative.

More on Stardance

I posted earlier about Stardance; you can find the prize connections in that post. This post is just a follow-up to let you know that the news continues to appear at the Stardance Blog. Here's more video than we originally saw of the graceful first Zero-G dance of the project, and here's a TV interview on it. Keep checking there for the latest.

Prizes, Diversity, and the Space Industry

William Pomerantz at the X PRIZE Foundation has some ideas about prizes and diversity. The post includes a personal story about coming to America and joining the space industry by Diana Trujillo. The Lunar Lander Challenge, Google Lunar X PRIZE, and RoboCup are all featured in the post.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Physical Crashes But No Software Crashes at Unreasonable

Unreasonable Rocket gives the details on some model helicopter crashes and updates to an Open Source helicopter simulator that now goes through the Lunar Lander Challenge steps.

Update (Jan 25): There are new posts at Unreasonable Rocket showing new GPS boards that arrived and another frustrating crash.

Designing for the V Prize

Gravity Loss does some calculations and engineering design related to the V Prize. A lunar lander challenge competitor is among the commenters.

CAFE News on General Aviation Technology Challenge

The CAFE Foundation has made a number of updates related to the General Aviation Technology Challenge:
  • a list of engines and fuels that may be of use to GAT Challenge teams
  • a link to a paper on alternative fuels for commercial aviation
  • links on ultracapacitors that may be useful in achieving the GAT Challenge goals
  • a note on a CAFE Foundation lecture to a University of California, Davis Aeronautical Engineering class where the students may rise to the Challenge
  • the GAT Challenge FAQ
It's all here on the CAFE News page.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

MDA, ATK, and Odyssey Moon

Christian Sallaberger discusses the MDA and ATK deal on the Odyssey Moon blog at the Google Lunar Challenge site.

More Automotive X PRIZE Articles Roll Out

There are some new articles about the Automotive X PRIZE at The Independent (which seems to be confusing pounds and dollars in the title, but not the article itself), Voice of America, and MSN Autos. The last 2 links are from the X PRIZE Foundation news scroller.

Pomerantz on the Conrad Award

Will Pomerantz, with major appearances by blog guests Josh Neubert and Becky Ramsey, explains how the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award to encourage space entrepreneurialism in students started. It sounds like they have plans to continue the competition in 2008, and hope to make it even bigger, for example with more teacher outreach.

I'm not sure if this part indicates just where they wanted to go at first, or where they'd still like to go:

We planned to do both a student and professional version of this challenge, but quickly realized that we did not have the capability to take both on at first.

Of course if the big jump is too much, it's sometimes possible to take smaller steps (like expanding the competition to have an undergraduate level, or many other options).

Newark Memorial High and Team America Rocketry Challenge

Here's a blog post from a teacher who was a coach in previous years for the team that won the Team America Rocketry Challenge last year. The post mentions that this year the school has 3 TARC teams. It sounds like my kind of school. Here's an old article that describes the school's rocketry class.

Two Elevator Climber Teams

The Space Elevator Blog highlights 2 Space Elevator Challenge teams: one new one (TXL Group, Inc.), and one familiar one (The University of Michigan's MClimber). As you'll see when you read the posts (and other SE Blog posts on teams), each team is unique.

Meanwhile, has its own version of the announcement of Trumpf support for the 2008 games. A LaserMotive photo is included.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Anousheh Ansari on The Space Show

Anousheh Ansari was interviewed on The Space Show recently. She's been involved with a lot of space efforts like her trip to the ISS, so only a small part of the interview is on her work with the X PRIZE Foundation. I think you'll still find it to be an interesting discussion.

Laser Beam Power Space Elevator Teams at Photonics West Conference

The Space Elevator Blog interviews Dr. Georg Treusch from DILAS, which has worked with laser-based beam power teams in the past, and is in discussions with several teams this year. Laser power is expected to be a popular option this year since the competition requirements are much more stringent this time.

The blog also has a post about the Photonics West Exhibition and how it relates to the Space Elevator Games this year.

Update (later in the day): The SE Blog just added a press release from Spaceward on TRUMPF Laser assisting Space Elevator competitors by providing a commercial laser source and related support. Like DILAS, TRUMPF will be at the Photonics West Exhibition.

X PRIZE Foundation Helps On and Off the Job

The X PRIZE Foundation had some fun last Movember raising money for a worthy cause. At first I thought I'd stumbled into the Beastie Boys Sabotage video, but I figured it out soon enough. I'm sure you will too.

Automotive X PRIZE Videos

X PRIZE Cars gets a new log and website design, and points us to this new video from the X PRIZE Foundation promoting the Automotive X PRIZE.

While watching that video, I noticed this one about the X PRIZE Foundation at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show.

2007 Astronaut Glove Challenge - Peter Homer's Story

Wired's Geek Dad blog has a post on last year's Astronaut Glove Challenge. The post is based on this article at that tells the Peter Homer astronaut glove story, including some pictures and a video of Peter testing the glove. Here's a quote from the article:

"I definitely think that's something they ought to pursue more of," he said. "I'm not an anomaly. I'm not just one guy out here. There are lots of people like me who have the training, background and experience, and who, for whatever reason, are not in the industry but who are interested in contributing in some way. There are lots of really intelligent people who can contribute in the way that I hope to contribute by bringing new ideas in a way that NASA can take them over and bring them into their programs."

Unreasonable Rocket and SpeedUp

Unreasonable Rocket is posting faster than I can keep up. There's progress using the helicopter platform, and potential for some video from that platform soon. Maybe having gotten so far with the helicopter, they'll think about competing for (or otherwise participating in) the $80,000 International Aerial Robotics Competition?

Meanwhile, SpeedUp diagnoses some noise they've seen in data collected during tests. Supplier fault tolerance is mentioned, and tether testing may be coming soon.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Space and the 2008 Rice Business Plan Competition

Spaceref posts on the $20,000 NASA Earth/Space Life Sciences Innovation Award. This is for a business plan related to life sciences. The plan should have space and Earth applicability. The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and NASA are involved with the competition. The winner is also eligible to compete in the much larger Rice Business Plan Competition. Here's more about the Space part of the competition.

Multiple Posts from Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark at the X PRIZE Foundation had 3 posts yesterday:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

ProSpace March Storm Space Activism and a Space Prize Bill

Space Politics posts on some space activist efforts, including the ProSpace March Storm that advocates several positions favorable to commercial space, including the Aeronautics and Space Prize Act. See the March Storm Agenda Update and an earlier post on ProSpace in 2008. Among other points, they state:

We also welcome the introduction of the Aeronautics and Space Prize Act (H.R. 4917), which proposes and aeronautics and space prize program to develop aerospace research and development.

I'm a little worried about this part of the Act:

(2) with the advice of NASA and other agencies as appropriate, to carry out a program for tasteful advertising of commercial products and services in conjunction with the Nation's aeronautics and space endeavors in conjunction with NASA, other agencies involved in aeronautics and space, or independently; and

It seems like this might compete with entrepreneurs, and even prize competitors and alliance organizations running the prize competitions, if they want to get sponsorships. Last year it seemed to me that the Space Act of 2007 that ProSpace supported didn't have this potential disadvantage.

January 18 X PRIZE Foundation Newsletter

I just got the latest email newsletter from the X PRIZE Foundation. You can sign up for this service at their main home page. I've posted about most of the news there already, so I won't repeat it all. Here's one new, from my point of view, news item:

Dr. Bard Geesaman has joined the Foundation as the Executive Director of Life Sciences. Geesaman is an MD, venture capitalist and entrepreneur who has experience in many areas of the medical industry. In his new role, Geesaman will be responsible for developing, funding and running new prizes in the area of Life Sciences, which will include any cancer, healthcare and genomics prizes.

Not only does this give you an idea of their management, but it also shows what types of prizes they want to offer in the future. Here's some background information on Dr. Geesaman.

2008 Space Elevator Compilation Number 2

Here are a few links related to the Space Elevator Games:

The Space Elevator Reference notes that their SpaceRef On Orbit service includes a Space Elevator forum. One of the contributers will be Ben Shelef from the Spaceward Foundation that runs the games. Other Space Elevator notables will also contribute. Here's the forum and here's a post to get things rolling from the SE Reference's Mark Boucher.

By the way, I already posted about the Space Elevator Games press release a couple days ago, but here's an article on it from On Orbit, just so you can get a sample of that new service.

Universe Today also has a discussion about the Spaceward plans.

Meanwhile, the Space Elevator Blog has a post on the machine that tests the strength of the tethers in the Tether Challenge.

Finally, I already linked to this RLV News post because it fit in with a different topic I was writing about, but it also fits in with this post, so it gets another one. One of the items in the post is about carbon nanotubes, which are (so the scientists and engineers tell me) probably the way to go in the advanced stages of the Tether Strength challenge.

Update (Jan 20): Here are a few more Space Elevator links:

The Space Elevator Blog explains a technical mistake related to tether strength, and tells us about future posting plans.

Tether team Delta-X also clarifies the strength issue.

Climber team USST held a meeting on Jan 8, and plans another Jan 21 (that's tomorrow). Potential new team members are invited.

LM Space Day and TARC

Lockheed Martin Space Day is supporting the Team America Rocketry Challenge, but is phasing out the Space Day Design Challenges.

V Prize Bill Moves Along

At the bottom of this post from Spaceports is the latest step in the progress of a Virginia bill in support of the suborbital point-to-point V Prize.

Unreasonable Rocket Programming

Unreasonable Rocket gives some insight into their vehicle control by showing some software variable declarations and comments. There's also a pointer (no I'm not talking about code any more) to an automated helicopter article.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Will Pomerantz on the Google NASA Talk

Yesterday I posted on Google CEO Eric Schmidt's talk on NASA's anniversary. That was just based on an article I read, but the X PRIZE Foundation's Will Pomerantz was there, and posts a lot more about the talk. There's quite a lot about prizes like Centennial Challenges and the Google Lunar X PRIZE in Schmidt's talk and Pomerantz's analysis. There's also a lot about other important topics, like opening up NASA and making it more responsive to the public using models familiar to companies like Google.

At the end of his post, Will has a number of other notes of interest:

Dr. Bob Richards, the CEO of Odyssey Moon, was on The Hour tonight. Worth watching!

Tomorrow--Friday, January 18th--we'll be presenting the Conrad Award at NASA HQ. It should be broadcast live on NASA TV. I'll post more about this on Tuesday

Also on Tuesday, I'll be speaking at a Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus briefing entitled: "Nanotechnology and Innovation, Commercialization, and Prize Competitions" over in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Should be fun--hopefully I'll blog about that next Tuesday!

The Pete Conrad Award press release is found in a lot of places - for example, see Earth Times.

RLV News has a post with a number of prize-related pieces, including Will's post. It also links to the fast-paced interview of Dr. Bob Richards that Will mentioned.

Wired Science has more on the Google speech, including a video of part of the speech. You should be able to find the rest of it by clicking on the video and going to YouTube.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Coalition for Space Exploration and NASA Mean Business

From comes an article about the Coalition for Space Exploration sponsoring the 2008 NASA Means Business competition. The article describes the competition, and this year's particular version of the competition.

Google Asks NASA to Work With the Public

Infoworld has an article on a talk by Google CEO Eric Schmidt about NASA's 50th anniversary:

Schmidt praised programs such as NASA's Centennial Challenge, which awards cash prizes to inventors that come up with solutions to the agency's needs. Last year, NASA awarded $200,000 to Peter Horner, an unemployed engineer from Maine, who created a new space glove using a common rubber glove.

Google has sponsored the
X Prize Foundation, an organization that runs similar competitions, with an award of up to $30 million for a group that can design and launch a lunar lander with a robotic explorer on board. In many cases, the teams competing for the prize in these types of competitions spend more than the total prize money, but the public awards spur competition, Schmidt said.

"Why would we do this?" Schmidt said. "Because it's fun."


"The best way to be lucky is to create more luck," he said. "And the best way to create more luck is to create more at-bats."

Which is More Dangerous?

Personal Spaceflight notes that a suborbital spaceflight prize has been dropped from a charity auction because of safety concerns.

Spaceward Press Release

The Space Elevator Blog posts the latest press release from the Spaceward Foundation on the Space Elevator Games.

More on Gingrich and a Mars prize

Space Politics has more on Newt Gingrich and space prizes. You can also see a copy of the interview discussed at Space Politics at Innovation prizes are discussed several times in the interview:

JB: ... You propose, in “Real Change,” a new kind of space program, for, giving prizes, for example, to go to Mars. How can the bureaucracy permit you to go past them and accomplish something like this?

NG: I think the bureaucracy will probably do everything it can to stop it. In 1903, the Smithsonian had been working on airplanes for 10 years, and had spent over $50,000 in tax money, and the Wright brothers, who were two bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, flew. Now, they actually had a fundamentally different model than the Smithsonian model. It was much lighter, it was much smaller, it had a different set of aerodynamic principles, and it worked. It’s only great virtue was that it actually flew. Now you would never have gotten it funded by the National Science Foundation, you never would have gotten it approved at the Smithsonian, because they didn’t believe in it intellectually. It’s not that they were bad people; but they were wedded to a bad idea.

NASA today has managed to make space dull, expensive, bureaucratic, and slow. This is an enormous achievement: it’s just a dumb one. I think what we want is to find ways to break out. What I propose is to go back to a model that worked in aviation for 50 years: Offer very large prizes. I had a very senior member of the Air Force say to me, if we had a $5 billion tax-free prize for the first team to get to Mars -- think of it as the 21st Century America’s Cup, ‘cause, you know, there are millionaires and billionaires out there who spend an amazing amount of money on yachts in order to compete for the America’s Cup.

If we had a 21st Century America’s Cup in space, this particular expert in the Air Force said to me, they thought we’d get there in about five years and save about $220 billion dollars in federal spending over the next generation. So, you look at that sort of thing, and I don’t want to try to fix NASA, I want to try to create a competitive, prize-based system. I want to do the same thing in health. Alzheimer’s, a terrible disease, is a $1 trillion, 200 billion [threat??] to the baby boomers. What if we had a substantial prize: a billion dollars or more, tax free, for the first breakthrough that blocks the effects of Alzheimer’s. If any bright scientist anywhere wanted to stay up late at night, just invent it. Don’t fill out forms, don’t send in 70 copies, don’t wait to be peer reviewed: if you can meet the standards, and you can meet the challenge, you can get the money.

JB: Somewhere in my desk at home I have a copy of the Wright brothers’ first contract with the United States Army for their flyer. I believe it’s three-and-a-half pages long. I don’t know that you can get there from here in our current system. How can you get Congress to understand the value of such prizes and change it? You’re talking about real change in your book, and you’re defining it in terms of real leadership. Explain please.

NG: Well, we have been first of all, talking with many members of the House and Senate, as well as Governors and state legislators, and I’m getting a pretty significant response. I think there will be bills introduced in the next two months on a whole series of prizes. And I think there’s real interest: for example, at least one presidential candidate has picked up the idea, $1 billion for the first mass produced car that can do 100 miles to the gallon, which begins to change the whole economy for gasoline and for oil in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Iran. So I think you’re going to see the idea of prize dramatically reenter the public dialogue, and that’s one way I think “Real Change” is going to turn out to be a pioneering book that really does create a fundamental shift in the national dialogue. We found in our polling -- which is at -- if you click on ‘research’ there, we did six national polls this summer, and overwhelmingly we had people who think prizes are a good idea. We saw the X prize being offered several years ago, for near space: $200 million was invested, to get a $10 million dollar prize. Because you stimulate the competitive spirits, you encourage the entrepreneurial mindset, you say to people who have lots of money and strong egos, “Let’s see if you can do it.” Not, “let’s see if you can apply for the paperwork,” -- “let’s see if you can actually do it.”


NG: ... I would say that you could look at this whole issue of prizes. Overwhelmingly the American people are worried about their energy future. They feel very uncertain about having Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Russia. How can a rational country rely on those sources of energy? And so I think if there was an aggressive opportunity to say to every entrepreneur in the world, “Look. If you can get us out of this mess, you’re going to get very rich very fast,” I think you’d see dramatic change.

Here's some polling results from the site Newt mentions,


Prizes should be given to companies and individuals that invent creative ways to solve problems.

We support giving large financial prizes to companies and individuals who invent an affordable car that gets 100 miles to the gallon. (77 to 15)
We support giving a large financial prize to the first company or individual who invents new ways to successfully cut pollution. (79 to 18)
We support giving a large financial prize to the first company or individual who invents a new, safer way to dispose of nuclear waste products. (79 to 16)

Also see pages 94-97 here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Prize4Life Donation Effort

Prize4Life is looking for lots of unique donations (they don't have to be large) so they can win $50,000.

More on AXP at the Detroit Auto Show

X PRIZE Cars blog continues to gather numerous articles on Automotive X PRIZE teams at the Detroit Car show, as well as some information about other companies with similar goals.

Also, from the X PRIZE Foundation news scroller comes an audio interview about the Automotive X PRIZE at AutoWeek. A prize amount of $10M was mentioned in the interview ... but is that the grand prize, with other smaller ones?

Space Pirates Wielding Lasers

The Space Elevator Blog is keeping up with the Kansas City Space Pirates' switch to laser power. They sound optimistic, and are covering the technical, business, and management problems that confront every Space Pirate:

We have done some testing with low power lasers horizontally at 1km. We have lined up two different Solar cell providers depending on what laser we end up using. We have one or two answers for every technical challenge we have anticipated. We have a few parts for the ‘08 climber in house that are awaiting testing along with some sketches of where to put them.

Our focus has been in making sure we have a viable plan, but the fund raising environment seems warmer than last year.

We have recruited some more expertise this year to make sure we have all the skills needed.

The Importance of Blogging Earnestly

William Pomerantz posts on early challenges met by Peter Diamandis, Bob Richards, and Todd Hawley, as well as on taking notes or blogging or similar measures when involved with such challenges.

One of the things he mentions in the post is a requirement of all Google Lunar X PRIZE registrants to blog. Odyssey Moon, the first team to register, has already started, with 3 posts in the last couple weeks, pictures of the team rollout, and video coming soon. First, Loretta Whitesides kicks off the first of the New Years' posts. Then, Robert Richards gives an overview of the company. Finally, Chairman Ramin Khadem explains the business reasons why they're doing it. Here's part of the reason:

... we are not competing with Space Agencies. On the contrary, we see ourselves working with them and being responsive to their requests should they have small payloads they wish ejected onto the lunar surface. We also believe if you are clever, nimble, of the right size and right ambition you can do what major space agencies cannot achieve. This we believe constitutes the sweet spot of private enterprise.

Will also posts on the Google Lunar X PRIZE forum. Here's an interesting discussion that explains why the prize includes a requirement for a small payload and self-imaging.

Progress for V Prize Bill

I recently linked to a Spaceports article on a measure on the Virginia legislature in support of the V Prize. Now Spaceports reports that the measure has passed in the Virginia House of Delegates.

2008 Great Moonbuggy Race

Spaceref posts a press release on the 2008 Great Moonbuggy Race.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rapid Unreasonable Rocket Updates

RLV News catches the latest series of detailed updates from Unreasonable Rocket. My favorite quote:

I apologize to all that this has become the unreasonable helicopter blog.

I just thought that blog title had a nice ring to it. Also, no apologies necessary, as far as I'm concerned. I like seeing people take different paths to solve the space access problem, and if one path leads to an unreasonable umanned helicopter along the way, let's give it a try.


The National Space Society ISDC (International Space Development Conference) 2008 plans are apparently coming together, as more is being displayed on the web site. X PRIZE Foundation founder Peter Diamandis is one of the speakers on the list.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ferris Valyn on Obama's Space Policy

RLV News notes that Ferris Valyn has posted on some problems with Obama's space policy position on Daily Kos, a site that's generally in favor of Democratic candidates (as is Ferris). Ferris is in favor of some of the positions in the document, but he's opposed to what I think he considers the central points, such as support of Ares I/Orion without the Lunar mission, and no mention of COTS or commercial space. Here's what Ferris says about prizes in his comments:

My main complaint is in whats missing - there is absolutely no discussion about the potential for the commerical sector in space. This is where the real excitement within the space community exists - the development of real markets for putting people into space, and having routine access. To be fair, Senator Clinton has not mentioned commerical space either, but as the candidate of change, I would hope that Senator Obama would see this. With the developments coming from the NewSpace industry, we sit on the edge of major developments and changes, much like we saw with the internet in the 90s, and much like people expect with things like stem cell research.

Also missing is the issue of whether prizes will be utlized. The X Prize proved very successful in changing the nature of how we interact with space, and proving that "hobbyists" could become involved. And the Centennial Challenges program has also been shortchanged again this year, and thus I remain concerned.

Clearly all of the Presidential candidates from both parties (as well as most Congressional representatives) have a long way to go in their consideration of commercial space and space prizes.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Some 2008 Presidential Candidate Positions on Innovation Prizes

I decided to surf around some of the U.S. Presidential candidates' websites to see what they had to say about innovation prizes. I've posted some things here and there about prize politics, but most (not all) of it has been Congressional or internal to federal agencies. This was by no means an exhaustive search, but here's what I came up with. I didn't find anything about space-specific prizes, unfortunately. Most of it was generic or energy-related. I didn't find much from Republican candidates (just a debate comment from Huckabee), although prizes can fit in well with Republican economic ideology in that they are sometimes better and cheaper than big government spending at solving problems in a way that at least simulates good features of a free market.


energy issues link (similar information on this fact sheet)

Support Next Generation Biofuels

Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol: Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013.


blog discussion link (I couldn't find anything more official)

He just mentioned an X-Prize-type deal to get a car that reached 100 mpg. I am ALL for that (although I would prefer that gallons of gas were out of the equation altogether)! We need more of that from government. Government is too expensive.The role for government is to encourage business. I am all on board with a government X-prize. Private businesses can spend 1 bilion much more efficiently than government.

Huck's forum

America has always been about developing technology and bringing it to market. We need to lead the world with Alternative Energy. I hope Huckabee has specific plans for this. He mentioned in the last debate, offhand, how we could provide, say, a $1 billion prize to the first company that achieves a 100 mile per gallon car. I think he is spot on. But do it more like this: $1 billion goes to the first American company to sell 500,000 vehicles in the American market that get 80 miles per gallon, if done by 2016.


Science and Innovation Speech

I've also called for competitive prizes to encourage innovation. Back in 1957, President Eisenhower, when he met with his Scientific Advisory Committee again, wondered if there were a way to keep people as excited about science as they were about sports and competition. And this was back when reality entertainment meant playing in the neighborhood park. Why not encourage people to innovate through healthy competition?

Innovation Fact Sheet

Direct the federal agencies to award prizes in order to accomplish specific innovation goals. The federal agencies should regularly use prizes to encourage innovation when there is a clearly defined goal and when there are multiple technological paths for achieving that goal. Prizes can attract non-traditional participants and stimulate the development of useful but under-funded technology. Hillary Clinton proposes to make prizes a part of the budgets at the research agencies.

Heinlein Award and Space Lunar Art

ArtsNova Digital Arts and Space posts on the NSS Heinlein Award. The last day for voting for the award is January 15.

In looking through some of the other posts there, I noticed this NASA student contest for art related to "Life and Work on the Moon".

Clear Prize for Aviation Security Innovations

Wired posts on a %500,000 prize from Clear for airport security technology innovations. Rather than improved security, their goal is for faster processing through security checkpoints. Presumably the faster processing would have to at least keep security the same as it is without the innovation. In addition to the cash prize, Clear will commit to a contract for business. An industry event will be held on Feb 13 for the prize.

Friday, January 11, 2008

2008 General Aviation Technology Challenge

They were hinting about this earlier, and now it's official: a couple weeks ago the CAFE Foundation posted that they'd updated the Personal Air Vehicle Challenge for 2008. The competition has been renamed to the General Aviation Technology Challenge, and now includes a "Green Prize". From the site:

The new prizes will be:

  • The Community Noise Prize ($150,000)
  • The Green Prize ($50,000) (MPG)
  • The Aviation Safety Prize ($50,000) (Handling, eCFI)
  • The CAFE 400 Prize ($25,000) (Speed)
  • The Quietest LSA Prize ($10,000)

The rules also show a few more prizes:

Individual "Showcase" Prizes: Winner of each of the following five prizes will receive US$ 3750.00:

  1. Quietest Cabin Prize
  2. Best Angle of Climb Prize
  3. Shortest Takeoff Prize
  4. Best Glide at 100 mph Prize

There are a lot more details about the 2008 competition here and here.

Automotive X PRIZE Looking for Host Cities

AutoBlogGreen has a couple of posts today about the Automotive X PRIZE. The first is on 7 teams planning to attend the Detroit Auto Show, and the second is on the AXP folks looking for cities to host the AXP race. A Host City RFP is planned.

Legal Aspects of Intercontinental Suborbital Flight

Spaceports posts on some Virginia General Assembly activity that could potentially help the V-Prize for a suborbital flight from Virginia to Europe. This sounds like it could be a great prize competition if they manage to overcome the difficult funding hurdle that such a grand challenge warrents. You can get an idea of some of the things the V-Prize Foundation is up to by reading the resolution linked above.

Numerous Regolith Challengers Registered

The California Spaceport Authority, via Matt's blog, announces that they now have over 10 diverse teams registered for the 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge. An upcoming CSA newsletter will spotlight 2 of the teams. While I wait for that, I thought it would be interesting to check out old versions of the newsletter. The first page I checked featured the 2007 Regolith Challenge, and here's the conclusion. If the PDF seems too small, I found that the numerous pictures hold up well to zooming in a bit.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Regional FIRST Robotics Competition

Spaceref posts a press release about NASA and the FIRST Robotics Competition. There are more FIRST links at the Oregon Space Grant Consortium, and the Glenn Research Center has a page for the Buckeye Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.

First Google Lunar X PRIZE Compilation of the Year

In the spirit of compilations (and quickly catching up on posting after my time off), here are some collected updates on the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

  • Is this rover going to the Moon? (From Hacked Gadgets DIY Blog).
  • Popular Mechanics has 9 questions on robotics for Matthew Mason, robotics expert from CMU. The Lunar X PRIZE is only mentioned briefly (as is the DARPA Urban Challenge), but it gives some perspective on how CMU, and perhaps therefore the Red Whittaker Lunar X PRIZE team, sees robotics.
  • The Space Fellowship has an interview with Interplanetary Ventures. (link from RLV News)
  • The Space Show has an interview with Odyssey Moon's Robert Richards.

First Lunar Lander Challenge Compilation of the Year

There's been a lot of news and posting related to the Lunar Lander Challenge teams lately. Here's what I've seen compressed into one post:

  • SpeedUp posts on a recent pressure test, and comments on weight-saving measures that can be used if needed.
  • RLV News points to an Unreasonable Rocket post on valves, controls, and the helicopter with a lot of pictures to show you what the hard work is like.
  • RLV News comments on another William Pomerantz X PRIZE Foundation post, this time with a lot of details on Acuity, one of the quieter teams as far as LLC Internet posting is concerned. This one also covers 2 more posts from Unreasonable Rocket - 1 on a typical rocketeer evening and another on a different evening.
  • RLV News also has the latest update from Masten Space Systems, including several job openings at the company, lots of details on their design and planning decisions, and contracts. The LLC is mentioned, but it's not clear from the main post whether they're planning to compete in 2008. However, Jon has a comment about that in, well, the comments section: "If we can get this new engine debugged and operational, and if we can get the vehicle ready to fly early enough in the year, we’ll probably take a shot at competing this year."

Somewhat related is this article (and this one) from the Alamogordo Daily News on N.M. state funding, the New Mexico spaceport, and the X PRIZE Cup.

Also, as planned, the winners of the 2007 Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award that was part of the 2007 X PRIZE Cup will be honored at NASA Headquarters. It looks like the Conrad Scroll will be sent to the ISS, too.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

H.R. 4916 Aeronautics and Space Prize Act

NASA Watch has a post on the Aeronautics and Space Prize Act sponsored by Representative Dana Rohrabacher. The details are here. With my limited legal reading ability, it looks like it's a bill to establish a national endowment for space prizes that's funded by NASA-related advertising, as well as by private gifts. I didn't notice anything about any "regular" Congressional funding of NASA or other government space prizes.

Mprize Fundraising YouTube Challenge

The Methuselah Foundation continues its fundraising efforts with more matching and a YouTube Challenge. Here's the original YouTube challenge.

BonNova Novel has a press release about a 1996 novel with a connection to Lunar Lander Challenger BonNova being introduced in audio versions. It's called Flight, it's by Vanna Bonta, and it has a fictional spacecraft called The Lauryad. As the BonNova site says:

Announcement October 30, 2007 It was an honor to participate in the Northrup Grumman X-Prize Cup Lunar Lander Challenge. BonNova would like to thank its investors and supporters. Chief Engineer Allen Newcomb welcomes two new engineers on board, Dan Kent and Bob Noteboom, and would like to thank Vanna Bonta for her contributions, without whose inspiration this project would have never taken flight.

Google Earth Treasure Map

The Google Earth Blog notices something interesting when reviewing their flight path to the X PRIZE Cup.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Space Elevator Games, Past and Future

The Space Elevator Blog has a post with a number of videos, including two from past Space Elevator Games. It also has another post with a number of videos, also from the Space Miners. All told, it's quite a lot of video records.

Meanwhile, both the Space Elevator Reference and the Space Elevator Blog present the latest newsletter from the Spaceward Foundation. There's a positive look back on the 2007 games, which I think is warrented (unless perhaps you're one of the teams that wanted to win that money in 2007). There's also a look ahead to the 2008 games, which, as I've noted in other posts, are tremendously ambitious. Of course, it's for a tremendous amount of money ...

I've noted some of the changes before ... for the Beam Power Challenge, they include a total of $2M in prizes at stake, and a 1 km climb, presumably requiring laser power. Here's an excerpt to show how they're thinking:

The racetrack we’re planning, based on a pyramid-tethered balloon, will be the tallest such pyramid ever flown. We’re working with industry experts to set this up, and will keep you updated. This is very exciting for us, since this architecture is extendable to 10 km as well

The update notes that some teams are already planning to go for it in 2008, and registration is open. I'm not sure which teams will be in the running, but The Kansas City Space Pirates are going for the win in 2008, and are switching to laser power. However, they need to do some fundraising for laser testing. Meanwhile, the McGill Space Elevator Team notes that

The team is working hard to create a laser beaming system for the 2008 competition.

Centennial Challenges at Space Politics

While I was on a posting hiatus, Space Politics posted on the NASA budget in part of an series of budget posts. The one I linked includes the following paragraph about Centennial Challenges:

The conference report notes that no money is being provided to NASA’s Centennial Challenges prize program in FY08 to fund additional prizes. “Providing additional funds to a program based on prizes only creates a sizeable amount of unused funds while other aspects of NASA’s mission are being cut or delayed due to a lack of funds,” the report notes. That language is immediately followed by nearly seven pages of earmarks totaling several tens of millions of dollars (which will be dissected in a later post.)

Rocket Videos

High Power Rocketry recently posted some videos from Armadillo Aerospace. I supposed they must be old, but anyway it's a good excuse to link to a site with a lot of cool rocket videos, from the smallest rockets to the biggest.

Reenacting Glenn's Flight?

Personal Spaceflight has a post on an idea to redo John Glenn's original spaceflight in modern times. One of the commenters has an idea for a different way to remember that flight:

A far better honor would be to use the money as a prize for placing a private astronaut in orbit. $45 million would get folks interesed. Call it the Glenn Prize in honor of the flight.

I wonder what John Glenn himself thinks about the idea?

Wearable Power Prize "Power Wear Off" Date

Cosmic Log notes that the Department of Defense has set a date and location for the Wearable Power Prize event:

The Department of Defense announced today the inaugural $1.75 million Wearable Power Prize competition will be held at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sept.22 until Oct. 4, 2008.

The Wearable Power Prize Competition was first announced in Jul. 2007. Its 13-day capstone event culminates on Oct 4 at MCAGCC with a “Power Wear Off” competition. The Wearable Power Prize competition gathers and tests wearable power-generating methods and techniques. The goal is to reduce the weight of power systems that warfighters carry to operate their radios, navigation, weapons, and other gear. Competitors will demonstrate wearable systems that can power military equipment for 96 hours, but that weigh less than half the current battery load.

There's more from Network World.

Automotive X PRIZE Articles, Past and Present

I already posted on the article here a couple weeks ago, but I didn't know it was the WIRED Science cover story. Now the article is featured in an X PRIZE Foundation news update, and is also featured front and center on the Foundation's main page.

Meanwhile, the X PRIZE Cars site has had so many updates in the couple weeks since I first mentioned it that I won't even give links to the individual posts. Just go to the main page and start reading. Also, be careful to not just read the initial page; a lot of the content is reached when you "Continue reading". For Elon Musk fans, there are a number of references and links to Tesla Motors. There's also an offer to ask the AXP Foundation people or competitor teams questions at the Detroit Auto Show.

Meanwhile, the X PRIZE Foundation news scroller gives a link to an article from the Great Lakes IT Report on the AXP competition and its planned appearance at the Auto Show. There's also a link to an article in the Canyon News on the upcoming official launch of the AXP competition.

Far-Ranging Pomerantz Post

William Pomerantz at the X PRIZE Foundation has a new blog post that covers a lot of ground.

I've posted on some of the information before, such as the potential Lunar X PRIZE Team FREDNET, Google Lunar X PRIZE betting, and the Foundation's Google Lunar X PRIZE forum Will mentioned in an earlier post. However, there sure is a lot in the post you haven't seen here, including a link to the recently updated Official Questions and Answers, so check it out.

Will isn't the only one posting at the X PRIZE Foundation; Tom Vander Ark has recent posts here, here, and here. Some of his earlier posts give a lot of hints about where the Foundation is going, but I'm not sure if I picked up the hints this time (maybe because I haven't read the books and articles he mentioned).

Monday, January 07, 2008


The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT blog considers what it would take to make the robot system work on the Moon to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE. As some commenters mention, there are probably some good possibilities for related contests here on Earth for kids.


At last summer's Heinlein Centennial, in addition to speaking on panels, singing, and more, Jeanne and Spider Robinson presented the Stardance Project, a real zero gravity dance project based on a science fiction novella and trilogy. At the presentation, they described the project and the funding difficulties they had, and Peter Diamandis volunteered Zero-G flights for them to get the project moving.

Now, they have a blog that shows their progress with the zero gravity dance, now in the "familiarization" stage. This particular post from Spider draws parallels to Ansari X PRIZE sponsor Anousheh Ansari and her blog from the ISS, and this blog from the ground as a new form of space-related art is made. The Heinlein Award, Heinlein Centennial, and Diamandis's early work with the X PRIZE are all discussed.

Here's another key post with a graceful teaser video of the dance as they find out what the environment is really like. Science fiction author Allen Steele is one of the commenters to the post.

The blog is fairly new, so you can probably read all of the posts in time sequence.

See more about the Stardance project here and here.

Centennial Challenging 2007 NYT Year in Questions

Wow, I find myself way behind in posting.

Check out the 2007 The Year in Questions from the New York Times. Question number 33 is related to the NASA Centennial Challenges. In case that's not enough of a hint, here's the answer key.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Out For a Few Days

I won't be posting for a few days, but you should be able to find plenty of updates on the space blogs and news sites on the right ...