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NASA Invites Citizen Inventors to Compete for $5M

nasaCitizen inventors will now get a chance to participate in a technology-oriented competition sponsored by NASA to win $5 million.

The space agency yesterday announced three new Centennial Challenges, which are prize competitions for technological achievements by independent teams who work without government funding.

“NASA sponsors prize competitions because the agency believes student teams, private companies of all sizes and citizen inventors can provide creative solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation,” said Bobby Braun, the agency’s chief technologist. “Prize competitions are a proven way to foster technological competitiveness, new industries and innovation across America.”

Teams will be able to compete in four different challenges:

The Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge is to place a small satellite into Earth orbit, twice in one week, with a prize of $2 million. The goals of this challenge are to stimulate innovations in low-cost launch technology and encourage development of 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 is to stimulate innovations in energy-storage technologies of value in extreme space environments, or for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems on Earth.

The Sample Return Robot Challenge is to demonstrate a robot that can locate and collect 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.

Individuals, groups and companies working outside the traditional aerospace industry are invited to participate in the challenges. NASA is soliciting proposals from nonprofit organizations to manage each of the three new competitions. After the partner organizations are signed, NASA and those organizations expect to announce challenge rules and details on how teams may enter later this year. Proposals from organizations interested in partnering with NASA are due by Sept. 13.  Selection of partner organizations is expected by Oct. 8.

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