- 1 Origin
- 2 Current challenges
- 3 Completed challenges
- 3.1 Green flight challenge
- 3.2 Strong tether challenge
- 3.3 Power beam challenge
- 3.4 Moon regolith Oxygen (MoonROx) challenge
- 3.5 Astronaut glove challenge
- 3.6 Vertical and lunar lander challenges
- 3.7 Regolith excavation challenge
- 3.8 Night rover challenge
- 3.9 Unmanned aircraft systems airspace operations challenge
- 4 See also
- 5 Further reading
- 6 References
- 7 External links
NASA's Centennial Challenge Program directly engages the public at large in the process of advanced technology development that is of value to NASA’s missions and to the aerospace community. CCP offers challenges set up as competitions that award prize money to the individuals or teams to achieve the specified technology challenge. The prize contests are named "Centennial" in honor of the 100 years since the Wright brothers' first flight in 1903. The Wright Brothers' pioneering inventions embody the spirit of the challenges.
The Centennial Challenges are based on a long history of technology prize contests, including the Longitude prize (won by John Harrison), the Orteig Prize (won by Charles Lindbergh), the Ansari X PRIZE (won by Scaled Composites), and the DARPA Grand Challenge (won by Stanford University in 2005 and Carnegie Mellon University in 2007). A key advantage of prizes over traditional grants is that money is only paid when the goal is achieved. A 1999 National Academy of Engineering committee report recommended that "Congress encourage federal agencies to experiment more extensively with inducement prize contests in science and technology". A 2003 NASA Space Architect study, assisted by the X PRIZE Foundation, led to the establishment of the Centennial Challenges.
As a federal agency, NASA has one of the federal government's three largest procurement budgets. The Energy Department (DOE) and the Defense Department (DOD) round out the trio. With the subsequent proposal in Congress of "H Prize" funding for breakthroughs in hydrogen fuel-related technology, the Department of Energy is poised to join NASA and DARPA's Defense Department in fortifying this paradigm shift favoring a growing quantity of technology experimenters who might otherwise be neglected by traditional government contractors and federal procurement officials.
Sample return robot challenge
The Sample Return Robot Challenge is to build an autonomous rough-terrain robot which can find and retrieve geologic samples. The intent is to advance autonomic robotics and remote manipulator technology. The prize is US$1.5 million. The Allied Organization selected to partner with NASA to conduct this challenge is Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. Team registration began Summer 2011, and the first competition was held June 16, 2012.
Eleven teams registered for the event, with six showing up to the competition. All but one team were unable to compete after failing the weigh-in and/or inspection. Team SpacePride competed in level one, but did not succeed.
The second running of the challenge took place June 6–8, 2013, at WPI. Ten teams competed for a Level 1 prize. Team Survey of Los Angeles was awarded $5,000 for successfully completing Level 1: their robot left the platform, retrieved a sample and returned to the platform within the 15-minute limit. No teams advanced to Level 2.
The third running of the challenge took place June 9–14, 2014, at WPI. 17 teams competed for Level 1 and level 2 prizes. Team Mountaineers from West Virginia University successfully completed Level 1 challenge. No teams completed Level 2 challenge in 2014.
Efforts were coordinated by NASA and the WPI Robotics Center.
Green flight challenge
The Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google is to build an aircraft which can fly 200 miles in under two hours using the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline per passenger. The US$1,650,000 prize was competed for Sept 25 - Oct 1, 2011 at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, Santa Rosa, California. The CAFE Foundation was the Allied Organization which partnered with NASA's Centennial Challenges Program to conduct the challenge. On October 1, 2011 CAFE had a competition open house for the public to see the aircraft and meet the competing teams. The Google Green Flight Challenge Exposition was at NASA Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, California on October 3, 2011. Free admission tickets were available at the Expo website. The Expo had the competition aircraft on display, presented winner checks and additional displays of green energy technology.
Strong tether challenge
This competition presented the challenge of constructing super-strong tethers, a crucial component of a space elevator. The 2005 contest was to award US$50,000 to the team which constructed the strongest tether, with contests in future years requiring that each winner outperform that of the previous year by 50%. No competing tether surpassed the commercial off-the-shelf baseline and the prize was increased to US$200,000 in 2006.
In 2007 the prize money was raised to US$500,000 USD for this competition.
The 2011 Strong Tether Centennial Challenge was held at the Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington on August 12, 2011. The Space Elevator Conference, sponsored by Microsoft, The Leeward Space Foundation and The International Space Elevator Consortium has hosted the Tether competition for five years and there has yet to be a winner.
Power beam challenge
Power Beam competitions were held in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009. They were directed at space elevator applications. Teams built mechanical devices (climbers) that could propel themselves up a vertical cable. The power supply for the device was not self-contained but remained on the ground. The technical challenge was to transmit the power to the climber and transform it into mechanical motion, efficiently and reliably.
This was a competition to build a wirelessly-powered ribbon-climbing robot. The contest involves having the robot lift a large payload within a limited timeframe. The first competition in 2005 would have awarded US$50,000, US$20,000, and US$10,000 to the three best-performing teams, meeting the minimum benchmark of 1 m/s. However, no team met this standard, with only two teams climbing under beam power. This prize also increased to US$200,000 in 2006, but no team was able to accomplish the full set of requirements. See Elevator:2010 for more information on Power Beam Challenge as well as other challenges related to space elevator technologies.
In 2007 the prize money was raised to US$500,000 USD for this competition.
In the 2009 competition, the competitors drove their laser-powered devices up a cable one kilometer high, suspended from a helicopter. LaserMotive LLC was awarded US$900,000 in the 2009 Power Beaming Challenge. Official results, as well as video and photography, are available at: http://live.spaceelevatorgames.org.
Moon regolith Oxygen (MoonROx) challenge
This head-to-head competition was for a system capable of extracting 2.5 kilograms of oxygen from 100 kilograms of artificial lunar regolith in 4 hours or less using at most 10 kW of power. This US$1 million prize expired in June 2009 without a winner.
The initial MoonROx challenge was announced in 2005 with the intent to award a US$250,000 prize to the first team to develop the capability to extract 5 kilograms of breathable oxygen from simulated lunar soil in an eight-hour period. The prize expired in June 2008.
For the initial announcement of the challenge, the competition was to be administered by the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI) in collaboration with NASA. The next year the California Space Education and Workforce Institute (CSEWI) was selected to administer the challenge when FSRI was dissolved and Space Florida was created to take its place.
Since extracting oxygen from silicates is difficult, and the oxygen electrochemically bound into the silicates at high temperature, it is likely that a solar-furnace may be part of the solution.
Astronaut glove challenge
In the 2007 competition, only the pressure-restraining layer part of the glove was required. But for the 2009 challenge, teams had to provide a complete glove, including the outer, thermal-micrometeoroid-protection layer. This competition rewarded US$200,000 in May 2007 to the team which constructed the best-performing astronaut glove. The basic idea for the competition was first proposed in Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings blog.
The first competition took place May 2 and May 3, 2007 at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. NASA offered a total of US$200,000 for the team that could design and manufacture the best astronaut glove that exceeded minimum requirements. An additional US$50,000 was offered to the team that best demonstrated Mechanical Counter Pressure gloves . The US$200,000 prize was awarded to Peter K. Homer, an engineer from Southwest Harbor, Maine; the US$50,000 prize went unclaimed and rolled to the next competition.
The 2009 competition was held on November 18 and 19 at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida. In the 2009 competition Peter K. Homer of Maine won US$250,000 and Ted Southern of New York won US$100,000, both had competed previously. Another challenge is planned and the date is yet to be announced.
Vertical and lunar lander challenges
Also announced at the XPrize Cup Expo and run by the XPrize Foundation, this prize is for a VTVL (vertical take-off, vertical landing) suborbital rocket that can achieve the altitudes and launch energies that are equivalent to what would be needed for a lunar lander. The Vertical Lander Challenge requires 50 meter minimum altitude, horizontal distance of 100 meters, flight time of 90 seconds, and landing on a smooth surface and after refueling, return to its original location. The more aggressive Lunar Lander Challenge increases that to 180s of flight time and landing on a rocky surface. The VLC has a first prize of $350,000, while the LLC has a first prize in excess of this. For 2006 at the Wirefly X PRIZE Cup, Armadillo Aerospace was the only team able to compete. Their vehicle "Pixel" completed one leg of the trip on its third try but crashed shortly after takeoff on the return, leaving all prizes unclaimed.
Regolith excavation challenge
In this Challenge, teams designed and built robotic machines to excavate simulated lunar soil (regolith). The Challenge was managed by the California Space Authority and was competed in 2007, 2008, and 2009, at which time the Challenge was won by a team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which won the US$500,000 prize purse.
Night rover challenge
The Night Rover Challenge is to build a solar-powered robot which can operate on stored energy for a significant portion of time. The intent is to spur development of extreme environment battery technology for use in space missions. The prize is US$1.5 million. NASA is partnered with nonprofit organization Clean Tech Open for this challenge . Requirements for proposal submission are here.
As of October 2013, the Night Rover Challenge was closed as no competitors registered.
Unmanned aircraft systems airspace operations challenge
In October 2012 NASA announced a challenge with the goal of developing some of the key technologies that will make it possible to integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into the National Airspace System. The challenge's focus is on demonstrating a high level of operational robustness and the ability to "sense and avoid" other air traffic.
The challenge will be divided into two parts: Phase 1 is scheduled to be held in Spring 2014, and Phase 2 will take place one year after Phase 1 is successfully completed. The total prize money available in Phase 1 is US$500,000. Phase 2 is planned to have US$1 million in prize money.
In May 2013, NASA announced that it had selected Development Projects Inc. of Dayton, Ohio to manage the challenge.
As of November 2014, NASA has cancelled the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Airspace Operations Challenge (AOC) due to unanticipated technical and operational issues as well as additional costs. NASA Centennial Challenges have historically been high-risk and leveraged activities conducted with minimal government funding. NASA reviewed the intended outcomes of the AOC and determined that the competition was no longer timely or cost-effective to execute as planned. NASA's cancellation of the AOC was not based in any way on technical progress or performance of the registered teams. 
The challenges have not been finalized. Candidates include:
- Very Low Cost Spacecraft Missions
- Breakthrough Robotic capability competitions
- Revolutionary Technology demonstrations
Challenges will be organized into one of four categories:
- Flagship Challenges: "To encourage major private space missions," these are expected to be multi-million dollar prizes for more major goals, such as robotic lunar landers or human orbital spaceflight. (Flagship technology demonstration program is more explicitly described by NASA here.)
- Keystone Challenges: "To address technology priorities"
- Alliance Challenges: "To leverage partnerships," contests organized in collaboration with non-government partners
- Quest Challenges: "To promote science, technology, engineering and math outreach"
- International Mars Society's University Rover Challenge
- Virginia's V Prize for spaceflight breakthroughs
- Innocentive's technical challenges page
- X Prize Foundation
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal's / PETA's million dollar in vitro meat production prize
- America's Rocketry Contest (for students)
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2009)|
- Concerning Federally Sponsored Inducement Prizes in Engineering and Science
- Hope, hype and hydrogen - Cosmic Log - msnbc.com
- "NASA Announces Three New Centennial Challenges". NASA. 13 July 2010. Archived from the original on 14 July 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
- "Team SpacePRIDE".
- http://www.nasa.gov/centennial_challenges/sample_return_robot/srr-2014-wrapup.html. Missing or empty
- CAFE Foundation
- Centennial Challenges Program
- Google Green Flight Challenge Exposition hosted by NASA
- Expo website
- [dead link]
- http://www.fsri.org/space_research_Moon_ROx.htm[dead link]
- "NASA Announces New Centennial Challenge". 2005-05-19. Archived from the original on 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
- "Centennial Challenges Update — October 2006" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-09-18.
- Transterrestrial Musings
- Hitt, Jack (July 1, 2007). "The Amateur Future of Space Travel". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2010.
- SPACE.com - Homemade Space Glove Wins NASA Contest
- Astronaut Glove Challenge Website
- and Mike Green, Tricia Talbert. "Masten and Armadillo Claim Lunar Lander Prizes". NASA. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
- NASA-Regolith Excavation Challenge
- Regolith Excavation Challenge
- College Team Wins NASA Lunar Robot Prize
- "NASA Eyes Centennial Challenge For Unmanned Aircraft".
- Exploration Systems Mission Directorate
- Centennial Challenges Home page of official web site.
- NASA Budget
- Centennial Challenges overview presentation
- 2004 Centennial Challenges Workshop Report
- Elevator 2010 (partner for Tether Challenge and Beam Power Challenge)
- NASA's Centennial Challenges Collaborates With Foundation - NASA press release (October 11, 2005)
- NASA Announces First Centennial Challenges' Prizes - NASA press release (March 23, 2005)
- NASA Schedules Centennial Challenges Workshop - NASA press release
- NASA Announces Centennial Challenges Workshop Agenda - NASA press release
- Centennial Challenges Workshop 2004 June 15–16. Hilton Hotel, Washington, DC.
- Centennial Challenges Workshop Registration Ends 2004 June.
- Race2Space.org - Advancing the Privatization of Space Travel July 2006, Race2Space, in partnership with the X PRIZE foundation, is seeking sponsorship in order to support the privatization of space travel, research, and exploration for the upcoming Lunar Landing Challenge Contestants October 2006."
- Lunar Lander Challenge -- One small step for NASA, One giant leap for the X PRIZE
- Space prize confidential (The Space Review, May 15, 2006)
- NASA Will Offer Cash Prizes for Technological Innovations (New York Times, March 27, 2005)
- NASA and Spaceward Foundation Announce First Centennial Challenges Prizes (Planetary Society, March 24, 2005)
- NASA Details Cash Prizes for Space Privatization (Space.com, March 23, 2005)
- NASA plans contests for space feats - MSNBC By Alan Boyle.
- NASA's Centennial Challenges Program To Offer Cash Prizes - Space News
- NASA exploration office charts new procurement territory - GovExec.com
- Cosmic Contests - GovExec.com (August 15, 2005)
- "H Prize": The Department of Energy's proposed prize for hydrogen fuel-related breakthroughs: "H Prize" funding for breakthroughs in hydrogen fuel-related technology (http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/01/24/41211.aspx)
- Concerning Federally Sponsored Inducement Prizes in Engineering and Science Report of the Steering Committee for the Workshop to Assess the Potential for Promoting Technological Advance through Government-Sponsored Prizes and Contests, National Academy of Engineering.
- The Testimony of Mr. Elon Musk - U.S. Senate Committee Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX: "If I can emphasize, underscore and highlight one strategy for Congress, it is to offer prizes of meaningful scale and scope."
- And the Winner Is ... - FORTUNE Magazine By Brian O'Reilly. "Inducement prizes are a 'fantastic, low-risk, high-return mechanism,' says Diamandis. If no one succeeds, he notes, you don't have to shell out any money. 'And if someone does, you've automatically backed the winner.'"
- Grand challenges (Editorial) - The Washington Times
- NASA Needs Prize Contest Ideas - Slashdot