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Here's what happened at the Centennial Challenges workshop

Posted by: The Legionnaire - Sun Jun 20, 2004 9:32 pm
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Here's what happened at the Centennial Challenges workshop 
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Space Walker
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Post Here's what happened at the Centennial Challenges workshop   Posted on: Sun Jun 20, 2004 9:32 pm
Hi everyone,

I attended the Centennial Challenges workshop on June 15-16 and had a total blast. Numerous staff from the X PRIZE Foundation were also there- Peter Diamandis, Gregg Maryniak, and Erik Lindbergh, to name a few.
Here's my summary of the excitement:

Centennial Challenges Workshop Summary

On June 15-16, engineers and scientists from all corners of the space industry converged on the Washington, D.C. Hilton to discuss the idea of NASA-sponsored prizes at the Centennial Challenges workshop. By making awards based on actual achievements, instead of proposals, Centennial Challenges seeks novel solutions to NASA's mission challenges from non-traditional sources of innovation in academia, industry and the public.

The conference comprised both plenary sessions, where the entire audience gathered in one large ballroom to hear various speakers such as rocket entrepreneur Elon Musk, Senator Sam Brownback, Presidential science advisor Jack Marburger, and Centennial Challenges program manager Brant Sponberg, and breakout sessions, where smaller groups brainstormed ideas for new prizes or hammered out possible rules for existing prize concepts.

The diversity of personalities – NASA employees, space entrepreneurs, academics, college students – led to numerous spirited debates. SpaceDev founder Jim Benson provoked much discussion when he told the audience that private industry could deliver the same products as NASA for one-fifth the cost. The soft-spoken but hard-hitting CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, assailed traditional contracting practices: “there’s a 100% chance the money will be spent.” Most present, however, agreed on one thing: prize competitions are a cost-effective way to generate innovation and excitement.

The afternoon of June 15 featured a lively panel discussion about past and current prize competitions. Colonel Jose Negron of the DARPA Grand Challenge brought action-packed videos showing the competing autonomous vehicles trying to avoid cliffs and rocks. Negron expects hundreds of teams to register for the DARPA Grand Challenge II to be held in 2005. X PRIZE founder Peter Diamandis, explaining the tortuous path the X PRIZE took before it became a success, at one point decided to “let CNN do the talking”; the monitor showed a CNN reporter praising the May flight of SpaceShipOne. X PRIZE Vice President Erik Lindbergh shared the story of his famous grandfather, whose pursuit of the Orteig Prize led to an aviation revolution. Although the panel’s discussion ran longer than expected, the speakers’ enthusiasm kept the audience captivated throughout.

During brainstorming sessions on June 15, moderators directed discussions of possible prize concepts in such areas as aeronautics, planetary systems, and bioastronautics. Every attendee of the workshop was given a chance to propose a prize concept. The diverse range of personalities contributed a diverse range of prize ideas: build an inflatable telescope, deflect an asteroid, create a 30-day unmanned aerial vehicle, develop the best material for human radiation shielding. Ten proposals were culled from the dozens of ideas generated and further discussed in Rules Development sessions on June 16.

Other breakout sessions were designed to fill in the blanks on ideas generated by an internal NASA study months before the workshop. Participants developed rules, definitions, judging methodologies, time limits, and possible purse sizes for each of 22 prize concepts. The prizes ran the gamut from a $100,000 purse for a precision lander to $20 million for an asteroid sample return. All ideas were recorded by the moderators present in each conference room.

The timing of the workshop could not have been better; on the second day of the workshop, the President’s Commission on Moon, Mars, and Beyond issued its long-awaited report, recommending that “Congress increase the potential for commercial opportunities related to the national space exploration vision… by creating significant monetary prizes for the accomplishment of space missions and/or technology developments.” The Commission also “strongly supports the Centennial Challenge program recently established by NASA.”

In the final hours of the workshop, Brant Sponberg detailed the next steps for the prize program. Sponberg and his staff of two will incorporate the volumes of suggestions generated by the workshop to develop detailed rules for various candidate prizes. Developing good rules is a crucial requirement for a successful prize, explained Peter Diamandis during the conference. In the next few months, Centennial Challenges hopes to issue the initial round of competitions, with purses of $250,000 or less. In the next fiscal year (2005), prizes of up to $20 million will follow. Judging by the enthusiasm of the workshop’s participants, Centennial Challenges will have no trouble getting people to compete for its prizes!


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Space Walker
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Post    Posted on: Fri Jun 25, 2004 12:12 am
Now that Burt flew SpaceShipOne into space, the general public is perhaps more interested in the potential of prizes. This should help NASA gain support for the Centennial Challenges program. What do you think?


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Space Walker
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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 28, 2004 8:39 pm
How about cutting Nasa's budget and give out a prize for the first compnay to keep 20 people in space (Alive) for 60 days.

How much is Nasa's budget per year?


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Moon Mission Member
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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 28, 2004 8:59 pm
All sounded pretty interesting guys!!!!!
Think the public's awareness is not the problem, even though i sat around my house n made all the students there watch the SS1 flight and realy got them asking questions, just 10 min's after they got bored again. Maybe we are hoping for too much. Maybe the general public just does not want to be interested?

Maybe to put it another way, if there were prizes for a boat trip round an island and back i am sure boat enthusiasts would love to see it but we would probably watch it on the news and forget about it because it doesn't float our boat (ouch, see what i did there?)

Not too sure either about the private sector doing what nasa can do but 5X cheaper, not yet anyways!

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