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NASA Robotics Space Science

NASA Adds $5M Prizes For Robots, Solar Spacecraft 17

coondoggie writes "NASA today significantly expanded its Centennial Challenges program to include $5 million worth of new competitions to develop robots, small satellites, and solar powered spacecraft. One of the new competitions is the Sample Return Robot Challenge. Its purpose is to demonstrate a robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples from wide and varied terrain without human control. This challenge has a prize purse of $1.5 million. The objectives are to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies."
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NASA Adds $5M Prizes For Robots, Solar Spacecraft

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  • Where's WALDO? []
  • Nice to see that NASA is expanding their program (sweet) ...
    I hope this side/outreach activity stays a side/outreach activity and not a centerpiece for what NASA should be doing (sour)

  • NASA Has Money? (Score:2, Informative)

    Since when does NASA have any money? I thought all their budgets had been hacked and slashed by the gov't and other bureaucracies.
    • They still have plenty of it considering the budget cut isn't effective for another 3 years or so I believe.
    • In case you haven't noticed - when any organization has their budget cut, and they can't afford to keep their research and Dev team working in their closed little spaces, they farm it out to the general public. Essentially, why pay 5 Million to a team to work on 1 project that may or may not be a success, when you can get lots of teams working on tons of projects and give 5 million to the best developed choice.

      As long as this strategy works, and NASA doesn't have much money to move around, this is what you'

    • You didn't read the fine print in the rules of the Challenges, which clearly announces:

      1) In which Senators' states the contests will be held, and . . .

      2) What percentages of components, from which states the contestants must use . . .

    • Re:NASA Has Money? (Score:5, Informative)

      by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:40PM (#32889150) Journal

      Since when does NASA have any money? I thought all their budgets had been hacked and slashed by the gov't and other bureaucracies.

      The White House actually proposed a budget increase [] for NASA this year, making it one of the only non-defense discretionary spending agencies to have such an increase proposed for it. The White House wants to use the increase for space technology (including Centennial Challenges), precursor robotic missions, and commercial crew transportation, although a number of folks in Congress [] want to just use to money to build a multi-billion dollar mega-rocket favoring particular congressional districts instead. Be sure to call up your congresspeople and let them know which you prefer.

  • Sweet! (Score:3, Funny)

    by DreamsAreOkToo ( 1414963 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:27PM (#32888968)

    Hey man, look at what I just found! They were just sitting over there on that wall, a whole pile of free legos!

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:33PM (#32889050) Journal

    Oh bummer, I actually just submitted a story on this a few minutes ago, oops. ;) The linked article above has a decent summary, but for the curious the summary below has some links to the original NASA sources:

    NASA has announced [] three new 'Centennial Challenge' technology prizes totaling $5M, awarded via competitions to achieve technological goals [] important to NASA: The $2M Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge for launching small satellites (at least 1kg) into orbit twice in one week, the $1.5M Night Rover Challenge for demonstrating a rover capable of storing and using solar energy over day/night cycles, and the $1.5M Sample Return Robot Challenge for a robot capable of locating and retrieving identifiable geologic samples in varied terrain without human control or GPS. This is in addition to the ongoing Strong Tether, Power Beaming, and Green Flight Challenges. The White House is currently seeking to boost funding for Centennial Challenges and other NASA technology programs, although many in Congress have other plans [].

    The NASA Chief Technologist Robert Braun is currently hosting an industry day, and you can view the webcast live (they're currently on lunch break) and read the presentation PDFs here: []

    You can also submit questions relative to whatever the current presentation is via their official twitter account, which has been updated regularly throughout the day: []

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:50PM (#32889304) Journal []

    The Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge: to place a small satellite into Earth orbit, twice in one week. The prize purse is $2 million.

    From this presentation [] on the new Centennial Challenges, the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge will require only a very small satellite, >1kg mass and >10cm cubic size. I'm guessing the folks in the best position to win this prize will be VTVL launchers like Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space System, who could put a smaller orbital secondary stage (either liquid or solid) on top of their reusable suborbital. I believe Virgin Galactic has also mentioned their interest in launching small orbital satellites this way, with a small orbital launcher mounted on their suborbital manned vehicle.

    It's too bad Centennial Challenges is so underfunded, though, particularly when you consider that the Ares I-X suborbital rocket cost NASA ~$500M. Winning any one of these new $1.5M-$2M Challenges will probably do more to advance space exploration than what that accomplished, at a couple orders of magnitude less cost.

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