NASA Loves A Good Challenge-Not Business As Usual

WASHINGTON -- NASA's pioneering use of prize competitions and
innovation challenges is a dramatic departure from government's
traditional "business as usual."

The agency's innovation and technology challenges include prizes that
encourage independent teams to race to achieve bold goals -- without
any upfront government funding. NASA benefits from private sector
investments many times greater than the cash value of prizes, and the
agency only pays for results.

"NASA prize competitions unlock the extraordinary, sometimes untapped
potential of U.S. students, private companies of all sizes and
citizen inventors," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA
Headquarters in Washington. "These individuals and teams are
providing creative solutions to NASA challenges while fostering new
technology, new industries and innovation across the United States."

NASA has a history of broad and successful experiences with prize
challenges. The agency is a leader in government-sponsored
competitions that solve problems to benefit the space program and
nation. Since 2005, NASA has conducted 20 Centennial Challenges in
six areas and awarded $4.5 million to 13 teams. Each challenge is
managed by non-profit organizations in partnership with NASA.

In July, NASA announced three new challenges and is seeking non-profit
organizations to manage them. The challenges are:

-The Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge is to place a small satellite
into Earth orbit, twice in one week, for a prize of $2 million. The
goals of this challenge are to stimulate innovations in low-cost
launch technology and encourage commercial nano-satellite delivery services.

-The Night Rover Challenge is to demonstrate a solar-powered
exploration vehicle that can operate in darkness using its own stored
energy. The prize purse is $1.5 million. The objective of this
challenge is to stimulate innovations in energy storage technologies
for extreme space environments, such as the surface of the moon, or
for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems on Earth.

-The Sample Return Robot Challenge is to demonstrate a robot that can
locate and retrieve geologic samples from varied terrain without
human control. This challenge has a prize purse of $1.5 million. The
objective is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and
robotic technologies.

NASA's Centennial Challenges program has an impressive track record
for generating novel solutions from student teams, citizen inventors
and entrepreneurial firms outside the traditional aerospace industry.
NASA is putting the innovations to work, as the agency recently
announced awards to two small aerospace firms for flight testing
rocket vehicles based on designs that won prizes in the Lunar Lander Challenge.

NASA's Green Flight Challenge offers $1.5 million for an aircraft with
unprecedented fuel-efficiency. At least 10 teams are preparing to
compete next summer in the challenge. Other agency challenges are
focused on wireless power transmission and super-strong materials.

In addition to the Centennial Challenges, NASA sponsors innovation
challenges, posing problems via the Internet to people around the
world. NASA uses open innovation platforms, or crowd sourcing, to
take advantage of group power from outside the agency to help solve
problems or to bring in new ideas. Current challenges seek innovative
solutions to health and medical problems of astronauts living in
space, the forecasting of solar storms and exercise equipment for
crews aboard the International Space Station. Solutions are submitted
in return for prizes or recognition by the space program.

NASA recently inaugurated an employee challenge called NASA@Work. This
collaborative problem-solving program will connect the collective
knowledge of experts from around the agency using a private Web-based
platform. NASA "challenge owners" can post problems for review by
internal "solvers." The solvers who deliver the best innovative ideas
will receive a NASA Innovation Award.

The public can learn more about NASA's Centennial Challenges and other
innovation challenges on:


This new online platform empowers the federal government to bring the
best ideas and top talent to bear on the nation's most pressing
problems. On this site, entrepreneurs, innovators and citizen solvers
can compete for prizes by providing novel solutions to tough problems.

For more information about NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, visit:


Source: NASA

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