NASA today revealed its newest batch of Centennial Challenges. As well as pointing to future directions for space science, they’re a gentle booster for President Obama’s plans to get more people involved in the space biz–including you.
The Centennial challenges are competitions a bit like the X-Prize that NASA uses to encourage novel thinking about space missions from non-government bodies, and these are the first new ones since 2005. The hope is that the space industry gets a nice community-spirited PR boost, and NASA may benefit from unusual ideas that it may never have dreamed up inside its own R&D laboratories: It’s a kind of “everybody wins” thing. In fact, there really are winners, as there’s a cash prize associated with each challenge, and this part of NASA’s budget is one of those rare bits that’s actually increased. This year the fund’s risen to $10 million, where it’ll remain per year until 2015. Though that’s a huge amount to the winners, it’s mere small change for NASA.