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NASA Needs Prize Contest Ideas

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the grand-prize-is-one-way-trip-to-mars dept.

Space 180

Michael Huang writes "If you like the idea of tech contests--think ANSARI X PRIZE and DARPA Grand Challenge--and you also like space, then NASA wants you. It needs ideas (and rules) for the Centennial Challenges, prize contests with $20 million funding in 2005. Current ideas (download Excel spreadsheet) include: Mars and asteroid microspacecraft missions, lunar robotic landing, robotic triathalon, rover survivor, Antarctic rover traverse and extreme environment computer. Wikipedia has good coverage."

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SCO: The GNAA-Nigerian connection (-1, Offtopic)

darlmcbride666 (777465) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083197)

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am Mr. Darl McBride currently serving as the president and chief executive officer of the SCO Group, formerly known as Caldera Systems International, in Lindon, Utah, United States of America. I know this letter might surprise you because we have had no previous communications or business dealings before now.

My associates have recently made claim to computer softwares worth an estimated $1 billion U.S. dollars. I am writing to you in confidence because we urgently require your assistance to obtain these funds.

In the early 1970s the American Telephone and Telegraph corporation developed at great expense the computer operating system software known as UNIX. Unfortunately the laws of my country prohibited them from selling these softwares and so their valuable source codes remained privately held. Under a special arrangement some programmers from the California University of Berkeley did add more codes to this operating system, increasing its value, but not in any way to dilute or disparage our full and rightful ownership of these codes, despite any agreement between American Telephone and Telegraph and the California University of Berkeley, which agreement we deny and disavow.

In the year 1984 a change of regime in my country allowed the American Telephone and Telegraph corporation to make profits from these softwares. In the year 1990 ownership of these softwares was transferred to the corporation UNIX System Laboratories. In the year 1993 this corporation was sold to the corporation Novell. In the year 1994 some employees of Novell formed the corporation Caldera Systems International, which began to distribute an upstart operating system known as Linux. In the year 1995 Novell sold the UNIX software codes to SCO. In the year 2001 occurred a separation of SCO, and the SCO brand name and UNIX codes were acquired by the Caldera Systems International, and in the following year the Caldera Systems International was renamed SCO Group, of which i currently serve as chief executive officer.

My associates and I of the SCO Group are therefore the full and rightful owners of the operating system softwares known as UNIX. Our engineers have discovered that no fewer than seventy (70) lines of our valuable and proprietary source codes have appeared in the upstart operating system Linux. As you can plainly see, this gives us a claim on the millions of lines of valuable software codes which comprise this Linux and which has been sold at great profit to very many business enterprises. Our legal experts have advised us that our contribution to these codes is worth an estimated one (1) billion U.S. dollars.

Unfortunately we are having difficulty extracting our funds from these computer softwares. To this effect i have been given the mandate by my colleagues to contact you and ask for your assistance. We are prepared to sell you a share in this enterprise, which will soon be very profitable, that will grant you the rights to use these valuable softwares in your business enterprise. Unfortunately we are not able at this time to set a price on these rights. Therefore it is our respectful suggestion, that you may be immediately a party to this enterprise, before others accept these lucrative terms, that you send us the number of a banking account where we can withdraw funds of a suitable amount to guarantee your participation in this enterprise. As an alternative you may send us the number and expiration date of your major credit card, or you may send to us a signed check from your banking account payable to "SCO Group" and with the amount left blank for us to conveniently supply.

Kindly treat this request as very important and strictly confidential. I honestly assure you that this transaction is 100% legal and risk-free.

Signed, GNAA president

PS. If you have mod points and would like to support GNAA, please moderate this post up.

________________________________________________
| ______________________________________._a,____ |
| _______a_._______a_______aj#0s_____aWY!400.___ |
| __ad#7!!*P____a.d#0a____#!-_#0i___.#!__W#0#___ |
| _j#'_.00#,___4#dP_"#,__j#,__0#Wi___*00P!_"#L,_ |
| _"#ga#9!01___"#01__40,_"4Lj#!_4#g_________"01_ |
| ________"#,___*@`__-N#____`___-!^_____________ |
| _________#1__________?________________________ |
| _________j1___________________________________ |
| ____a,___jk_GAY_NIGGER_ASSOCIATION_OF_AMERICA_ |
| ____!4yaa#l___________________________________ |
| ______-"!^____________________________________ |
` _______________________________________________'

Re:SCO: The GNAA-Nigerian connection (0, Troll)

darlmcbride666 (777465) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083227)

Well, there's step two of the application process for me.

first prize? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083199)

do i get first prize?

This place is such an abonimation. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083202)

I wish God would smite all regular Slashdot readers.

Re:This place is such an abonimation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9084481)

Unfortunately, in Soviet Russia God smites YOU!

NASA needs a purpose! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083216)

And since it doesn't have one, NASA is willing to pay big $$$ to get one.

How much tax money goes NASA?

I'm currently working on microspacecraft (5, Funny)

phats garage (760661) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083221)

I live in an area with lots of tall pines. My plan is to make the worlds biggest slingshot. So far I'm a bit short of orbital velocity, so I might apply for some money to get better rubber bands.

The prize that NASA really needs (3, Insightful)

xeeno (313431) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083266)

how about a prize to the group that clears out all of the dead fodder and restructures them?

What about... (5, Insightful)

SavedLinuXgeeK (769306) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083225)

Artificial Intelligence. I mean robots, space missions, even just regular things are all cool, but Artificial intelligence would enhance them all. It would allow for more unmanned space flights, and lessen the amount of direct attention necessary for some given projects. Not to say that we are to rely on AI solely, but that it can be a great aide in what NASA is trying to do, and it would help other realms of science as well.

Re:What about... (3, Funny)

smatt-man (643849) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083448)

What are you doing Dave?

Re:What about... (1)

cedmond (515813) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084998)

Or how about AI that can figure out if the misson controllers know the difference between metric units and the US system of measurements so it doesn't get flown into a planet.

Intelligent life in the universe (3, Funny)

theAmazing10.t (770643) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083250)

How about proving there is intelligent life in the universe?

They could start by trying to prove there is some on the third planet from that G3 star near the edge of the Milky Way galaxy.

Re:Intelligent life in the universe (3, Funny)

XMyth (266414) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083271)

After extensive searching, we've come to the conclusion that while there is an abundance of life on that planet, I wouldn't classify any of it as intelligent.

Re:Intelligent life in the universe (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083573)

It's a bit early to reach conclusions, isn't it? The screensaver project [dilbert.com] is still going.

Re:Intelligent life in the universe (2, Insightful)

cmacb (547347) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083929)

You mean by including their schedule on the NASA web page as a web page rather than a downloadable Excel file?

Re:Intelligent life in the universe (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9085346)

"Sometimes I think the surest sign, that intelligent life exists else where in our universe is, that none of it has tried to contact us" - Calvin

Lander Fear Factor! (4, Funny)

Himring (646324) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083260)

Current ideas (download Excel spreadsheet) include: Mars and asteroid microspacecraft missions, lunar robotic landing, robotic triathalon, rover survivor, Antarctic rover traverse and extreme environment computer.

And Lander Fear Factor! The rover has to drink a wicked puree of something a rover would find revolting....

Re:Lander Fear Factor! (1)

Fearless Freep (94727) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083523)

Milk?

AI not ready yet (5, Insightful)

The_reformant (777653) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083262)

Part of the problem about using AI is that it is kind of an umbrella term which covers everything from expert systems, neural nets, adaptive computing, machine vision. Also AI techniques aren't always the best way to approach large engineering type tasks like space missions. While getting neural nets to perform intelligent behavious is helping our understanding what intelligence is and how it works most of these technologies just aren't ready for prime time yet

AI is not ready indeed: with online demo. (4, Informative)

ControlFreal (661231) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083500)

Parent: +6 Insightful

I'm a researcher in AI, and I can do nothing but backup the parent's claim (sad as it is). When we use AI, we would expect a robot to be able to perceive its surroundings (analyzing sensory inputs), make decisions (reasoning) and act (generating actuator outputs).

I can only comment on the first, since I'm a Ph.D. student in Computer Vision. And the general picture is, to be quite honest, depressing. Forget all you've seen in e.g. Terminator (e.g. the robot analyzing its visual input, and all the nice text in the image): it ain't gonna happen for a long time! Although space missions are (presumably) less complex in terms of sensory inputs, the state of affairs in dealing with normal natural images gives a nice idea of what's currently (im)possible:

I'll provide an example here. I'm doing Computer Vision (face-detections), and the current state of affairs is about this: When finding faces in 800x600 images, this can be done in about 1 second (yes: 1 full second), at about a 90% detection rate and a couple of false detections per image. For more complex object classes that are not so nicely symmetric (think cars, houses, landscapes, etc.), the performance is dramatically worse.

You can look at the BitTorrent link [unimaas.nl] . And ONLY if that doesn't work, use this [unimaas.nl] . As for reasoning: this is still in it's infancy, but I'm not working in that field, so I cannot comment on that well. Any takers? ;)

Begging for money (4, Funny)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083273)

How about a contest to find the best method of begging congress for money? It pays for itself!

TV (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083285)

1. Start "Rover Survivor"
2. Sell the show to some TV channel.
3. Pay out Prize Money with the money from the TV-deal.
4. ?
5. Break Even!

Sustenance studies. (5, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083291)

Lets see NASA put all that human medicine/nutrition knowledge to use, and set up a "Survivor" program in ... say ... Mozambique ... that uses bare-bones scientific evaluation of bio-mass consumption to prolong human survival as long as possible.

Another idea is ocean habitats. It seems very strange to me that we haven't 'prototyped' long-term human sustenance studies by building an "International Ocean Station" somewhere in the Marianas trench or something ... Perhaps we have, perhaps its not useful, but it sure would be interesting to see all the details about human sustenance that an underwater, sealed 'biosphere X' kind of project could provide...

IF we've gotta live for 6 months on de-hydrated/hydroponic foods, lets do it in that other hostile environment we have yet to fully explore, provided by our Oceans, or Deserts, where ordinary 'normal' humans are also struggling to survive...

Re:Sustenance studies. (1, Funny)

SavedLinuXgeeK (769306) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083330)

Promise me whatever happens, you won't let Pauly Shore into the biosphere... The results could be dire

Re:Sustenance studies. (3, Interesting)

kippy (416183) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083444)

Another idea is ocean habitats. It seems very strange to me that we haven't 'prototyped' long-term human sustenance studies by building an "International Ocean Station" somewhere in the Marianas trench or something ... Perhaps we have, perhaps its not useful, but it sure would be interesting to see all the details about human sustenance that an underwater, sealed 'biosphere X' kind of project could provide...

The Navy has been using submarines with nuclear power sources and life support systems for decades.

Re:Sustenance studies. (5, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083480)

The Navy has been using submarines with nuclear power sources and life support systems for decades.

Yeah. That is true. But are they growing their own food?

The Navy isn't self-sustaining. U-boots still need a supply convoy and system if they wanna stay out there ... ain't no room for grow rooms in those torpedo bays, aaiiighht!

yo. just imagine your grow room scenario on a trident-class submarine ... ;)

Re:Sustenance studies. (1)

andalay (710978) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084586)

Holy shit 458!

Re:Sustenance studies. (1)

kippy (416183) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084636)

Yeah. That is true. But are they growing their own food?

They could if they wanted to. It's just that submarines are war machines. If for some reason they wanted to retrofit all the weapon systems with greenhouses and UV lamps, I'm confident that they could stay submerged for years.

really though, submarines and a mars colony are apples and oranges. I'm just making a point that a self sustaining martian colony is totally possible as long as you have an energy source, local resources and a little smarts.

The technology doesn't apply. (2, Insightful)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9085485)

Also, nuclear submarines generate their Oxygen by splitting watter into H2 and O2.

Unless someone's found a decent source of water on Mars, the technology doesn't apply.

Dangerous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083612)

Surely the Meglodon and the Kronosaurs will attack it?

Bill O'Reilly gets mad! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083297)

"Dutch surrealist who? No, now you wait a minute sir. I gave you a chance to talk, I- (Questioner attempts to clarify the line of inquiry). Shut up, cut his mic. Can somebody cut his mic?! Okay, now listen to me. You come on my show- (Questioner attempts to explain that they are not currently on the set of O'Reilly's show). Shut up! You had your chance! I gave you time to talk now you let me finish. I swear, if you interrupt me again we are going to have it out right here on the air. You come on my show pushing your fringe European liberal elitist agenda. Do you know how many people care about Dutchland? Do you know what the Dutch have done in the last twenty years? Nada! Zip! We here in America have been promoting the arts, film, technology, leading in science and learning, we have brought peace and democracy to the better part of the free world, and you have the- No sir, I will not calm down. I was calm, perfectly calm, when you came here but I will not tolerate insults and slander in the No Spin Zone. I will not tolerate this sort of intellectually dishonest bullying you are trying to push with your appearance. I will not give a platform to people like you. This interview is over. No, we're done."

Gumball? (1)

amichalo (132545) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083322)

How about a Gumball [gumball3000.com] Rally?

I can see it now: "Now accepting applications for the Gumball Inerplanetary Rally - fewer cops, more space junk"

First Manned Mars Landing Wins (3, Insightful)

datastalker (775227) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083323)

Here's what I would do if I were to design a space contest: I would establish a contest so that the first person to collaborate with Dr. Robert Zubrin [nw.net] and get a human to Mars within 5 years would not only be rich beyond the dreams of avarice, but would become the most famous person on the planet. I would also sell ads like crazy, since that would get the funding needed - corporations would love to sponsor the first human Mars landing. It might be a tad tacky or crass, but it would get the job done. And then we would have a human on Mars within three years. ;)

Re:First Manned Mars Landing Wins (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083632)

I would rather stay poor, unknown, and healthy than become the first man on Mars, rich, famous and permanently crippled.

That's a horrible idea. (3, Interesting)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083837)

The quickest way to make this happen is a one-way trip. I doubt NASA is going to fund an group to kill someone, no matter if the person is a volunteer who's willing to do it.

[Now, there's other groups in the US government who might be willing to provide funds for killing people, I just don't think that NASA is the one, though]

But let's think about it -- you'd probably have to find someone who's willing to make the one-way trip, but wouldn't be crazy enough to commit suicide on the trip there. That's a pretty dedicated person. [Although, I am making the assumption that they'd be looking for a live human on Mars, and not just someone shooting a corpse up there because of a poorly worded contest]

Crewman for Mars (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 10 years ago | (#9085394)

I know just the person for a one-way trip to Mars - determined, clever, very strong sense of self-preservation, deserves a one way ticket far, far away from the human race: Saddam Hussein. *And* it saves the government from deciding whether to shoot him or not.

Re:First Manned Mars Landing Wins (1)

greenegg77 (718749) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084201)

I'm glad he didn't say we had to
a) Get them there alive, and
b) get them back.

I've got a couple of candidates I'd like to propose for the trip...

Re:First Manned Mars Landing Wins (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084533)

I would volunteer for a one way trip. Just let me bring my iPod and Powerbook, and make sure I have enough to live the rest of my life there.

Zip Zap + Model Rocket (1, Funny)

tbase (666607) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083328)

You're welcome.

The ultimate prize... (5, Interesting)

orbit0r (731107) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083334)

uh, How about saving me a seat on the next mission?

It might seem a bit far-fetched, but seriously, if I designed something for NASA that might really advance humanity, a space-flight isn't too out of the question, is it?

Re:The ultimate prize... (2, Funny)

the real darkskye (723822) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084023)

Just remember to call shotgun when presenting your designs.

I'll be here for 90 minutes then my weekend starts, try the shrimp.

Re:The ultimate prize... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9084683)

doesnt NASA have physical standards for its astronauts? this prize wouldnt be able to motivate people not between 5'10" and 6'3", or whatever the standards are...still...i would love the idea of an 'open shotgun' contest on the shuttle. What is the shuttle's "shotgun constitution" like, anyway? :-)

Re:The ultimate prize... (1)

Scott Hale (574751) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084741)

What is the shuttle's "shotgun constitution" like, anyway? :-)

The pilot rides shotgun. You'll have to take a seat in the back.

Space Rally (1)

axis_omega (771398) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083338)

How about a space rally between earth and the moon?(something easy) You could use any type of space craft. You would need to take pictures of celestial reference on the way, land a flag on the moon, and come back, then crash on earth...

Oh and it could go ummaned if you don't want to bring some food along.
The other challenge would be to go and pick up the flag...

Re:Space Rally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083596)

How's NASA going to verify you've been to the moon? They've never been to the moon. [8m.com]

Practical Long Lasting Space Suit (5, Interesting)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083341)

The suits from the Apollo era are rotting away in museums, in spite of efforts to preserve them. I sometimes wonder just how long those suits on the International Space Station will be usable, because they NEED to be usable when an emergency happens. Next, the 1960s-era suits were also quite cumbersome to put on and work in. Fixing those two things will be essential if we want a long-term human presence in space.

Re:Practical Long Lasting Space Suit (5, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083404)

yeah, this is quite interesting, actually ... i always wonder what it'd be like if we -only- built space suits ... and how far that could really go if we put more energy into it.

imagine an 'environment' suit you can put on which is good enough to act as the primary housing for the entire trip through to orbit. a suit so good, you put it on, then 'latch on' to a rocket booster, and its all you need to get you to the docking port of ISS2, or whatever ...

how much 'lighter' could our space transport systems be if we put absolutely 1000% more into human-sustaining suits, i wonder ...

Re:Practical Long Lasting Space Suit (3, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083638)

Modern spacesuits are pretty dire; they're a bad compromise between a full constant-pressure hardsuit and a zero-volume skinsuit. This means that they tend to blow up when they're pressurised, which means they resist movement. This makes them very hard work to actually move around in. They're also very complicated.

Constant-pressure hardsuits would be one alternative, but as they require complex joints for all the limbs you won't be exactly agile in one.

A more interesting alternative is the skinsuit. This consists of a very close-fitting elastic body stocking that provides pressure on the skin to protect you from vacuum, while not actually containing any air. (The only hollow part is the rigid helmet.) These would --- probably --- be much more comfortable, restricting motion much less, probably be more reliable, certainly simpler to construct, etc. Although they might be rather hard to put on.

Unfortunately, I can't find any references to skinsuits, although I gather they've been tried in prototype --- can anyone confirm this?

Re:Practical Long Lasting Space Suit (2, Informative)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083760)

Yes skinsuits have been studied and prototyped. Jerry Pournelle wrote about them years ago in his "A Step Farther Out" column.

gimme a ref and forget the sci-fi (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084599)

do you have a solid ref- apart from sci-fi? No disrespect intended but anybody can write anything in sci-fi, do you have a link handy to any military/ scientific work done in the past? (nice photos of course welcomed cos it's Friday afternoon at work...time for slacking off :-) )

Re:gimme a ref and forget the sci-fi (1)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084906)

Pournell's column was non-fiction, although it was published in an SF mag ("Galaxy" if I recall right). Here is a page [jerrypournelle.com] that contains some info (seek the word "suit").

Re:Practical Long Lasting Space Suit (1)

invid (163714) | more than 10 years ago | (#9085490)

I knew it was a bad idea for them to make spacesuits out of meat.

Getting windy! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083351)

All patriots are hereby ordered to register for the United States DRAFT [draftregistration.us]

Three little words... (5, Interesting)

Jonny Royale (62364) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083364)

Webcams in Space! Live webcam pics (or streams) of the Earth from orbit, maybe one on the Moon (pointed at the earth?). Someday, even one from Mars? I know they have pics from the mars rovers, but what about a continuous raw feed?

Re:Three little words... (2, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083446)

duh. that is so 50's-era. [usgs.gov]

So weird. "Satellite Cameras" are the reason you can buy a cheap CCD at Fry's for $15, right next to the snap-dried ice cream ...

I got one... (2, Funny)

mattgreen (701203) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083377)

Why not a contest to see who can devise the best space-related contest, complete with rules. I think it would be positively groundbreaking!

Idea: Create cheap spacecraft (4, Interesting)

RecycledElectrons (695206) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083400)

All the really cool stuff happens once we leave orbit, right? (Deimos, Asteroids, Europa, etc.) Because there is already a prize for getting to orbit, so now we need to develop cheap spacecraft that can go that next step. I suggest that NASA allow experimenters to develop different spacecraft components. Categoires include: 1. Electrical Generation Systems 2. Navigation 3. Main Engine 4. Ways to "see" objects (sensors?) 5. Ways to gather volatiles frozen on something. 6. Ways to tow something. NASA takes the entries, tests them on the ground, and then takes the first 10 workable entires in each category to LEO, where they test them in space. NASA promises to take the winner from each category, and scale them to build a ship, which will be used to visit some piece of rock floating somewhere. NASA pays the prize as "royalties" to the winner. Andy

They want a contest? (1, Funny)

rampant mac (561036) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083421)

Come over to my house and identify what's growing on the bottom of my tub.

So, let me get this straight... (1, Troll)

TooMuchEspressoGuy (763203) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083506)

...NASA not only wants to waste our taxpayer dollars on useless, overfunded, wasteful government-sponsored ventures, but they *also* want our input on *how* to waste that money. One would think that, after the recent disasters that the agency has experienced as well as the money-pit that the International Space Station continues to be, they would eventually give up.

With that in mind, here's an idea for a new "grand challenge:" See how many private groups/businesses can do NASA's job better than NASA. Because government monopolies such as NASA, like private monopolies, nearly always tend to produce lower quality goods at an inflated cost to the detriment of the taxpayer/consumer, I guarantee you that the number of entries (and successes) will be higher than one might think.

Re:So, let me get this straight... (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084583)

Why should we let NASA blow money on projects like that? Because the DoD would have all the fun! I'd much rather spend $87 billion to get to Mars and start colonizing than blowing things up that we then have to rebuild while killing people.

Girls Gone Orbital (1)

smatt-man (643849) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083509)

I think they need to find some hot astro-babes. Then more people would watch the internation space station cams. More people watching means, higher ratings, higher ratings means more money from sponers.

High Specific Impulse Engines (4, Interesting)

krysith (648105) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083519)

Well, what NASA needs more than anything, is low cost access to orbit. That is what the X-prize is about, but NASA could probably get more bang for their buck by having a prize for a high specific impulse rocket engine which can operate in atmosphere. Simply set a minimum thrust, maximum weight, and minimum specific impulse, and see what people come up with. Ion and plasma engines have Isp of 10,000 or higher, but can't run in atmosphere (and require power supplies). If the space shuttle had that high of an Isp, it would need a ton or two of fuel (just guessing, don't feel like doing the math at the moment).

Of course, who knows how someone would find a way to make an engine like that. However if it is something with a low cost of entry (unlike the X-prize) which every backyard inventor can work on, then you instantly have a few thousand amateur rocket scientists working for a prize of a few hundred thousand. A pretty good deal, I say.

Re:High Specific Impulse Engines (2, Interesting)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084058)

Fuel is cheap. Several million pounds of liquid oxygen and hydrogen may sound like a lot, but in fact fuel costs only account for about 1% of the cost of a Shuttle mission. Contrast this with airlines, where fuel is around 1/3rd of the total cost for any given flight.

Lowering fuel requirements would lower costs indirectly, mostly by allowing vehicles to be smaller and more robust, of course, but fuel itself isn't a killer.

The problem is that better engines are a fundamental physical problem. The Isp of chemical engines is limited by the physics of chemical bonds, and you aren't going to get anything beyond small incremental improvements. If something was workable, it would be in use. Research is being done, and a few million dollars in a prize won't speed anything along. There are two near-current technologies we know of that would radically reduce fuel requirements and cost to get to orbit, and neither one would be influenced by a prize. Orion is politically impossible, although technically easy. Space elevators are waiting on materials and will cost tens of billions of dollars to develop. Other hypothetical systems, like laser launch, railguns, etc. still need lots of fundamental research to be done to become remotely practical.

Re:High Specific Impulse Engines (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084873)

Orion IS politically possible. We who support nuclear just need to drown out the voices of those who are anti-nuclear.

As for a Space elevator costing tens of billions of dollars, that is still insanely cheap compared to what it would cost to ship everything up or down the way we are now. After all, once we get a space elevator up, we could just start assembling ships in space instead of on earth. That would also give us the ability to eliminate the heat shielding and smooth surfaces required for atmospheric takeoff and landing.

Re:High Specific Impulse Engines (1)

Myself (57572) | more than 10 years ago | (#9085366)

At this point, having no better place to write it down, I should mention a weird little idea that my brother and I came up with a while back. It might even be possible with current technology.

One of the most cumbersome parts of Orion was the shock absorption springs and blast plates to smooth out the explosions happening underneath. Nuclear propulsion would be much easier if it could be made continuous.

Is it possible to make a critical mass of fissionable material while it's in vapor state? Consider a set of nozzles aimed at a common point, squirting out a stream of uranium vapor at phenomenal pressure. If the central point gets dense enough, it'll start fission and keep going as long as the gas supply and pressure keep up.

If handling high temperature vapors proves difficult, consider using dust or pellets instead. It would be a bit tricky to propel the particles without suspending them in another gas, but magnetic containment might make it easier. Either way, blasting the fissionable material into the reaction as a continuous stream would make the propulsion smoother and easier to handle. The thrust from such a system would be unbelievably powerful, far beyond even Orion's pulsed output.

Sure, it's well outside anything we've done yet. But I don't see anything here that's considered impossble, simply "absurdly diffcult". Be the first in your star system with a nuclear afterburner!

Ok, what about this: (4, Funny)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083527)

We're very keen to see a person on Mars. And we also know that using current technologies, the costs will be extraordinary. There's probably no reason for that, I mean, a converted Winnebago (it doesn't have to be roadworthy, so you can always get a used one for about $4,000, launched into space, sealed and made to withstand one atmosphere of pressure (how hard can that be?) together with some parachutes for the actual landing could be used to transport someone from here to there quite easily and comfortably. Parachutes, of the sort used by the military et al, are quite expensive, but those aren't really suitable for this kind of application, so you'd have to make your own, and funnily enough that again works in your favour - some huge sheets, bought from Goodwill, stitched together, ought to do the trick.

Issues with solar flares etc can be dealt with by wrapping the entire thing in aluminium foil. Aluminium foil is reflective (I can't believe nobody's thought of this), so this should protect anyone inside, and that's assuming a solar flare occurs at all.

Communication costs are coming down all the time. Most cellular companies these days have excellent coverage and well defined roaming agreements.

So really, it ought to be quite cheap, but I think the reason it's seen as expensive is because it's professionals doing it, and they can't very well be seen stitching old sheets together and covering rusty Winnebagos in foil.

So what I'd do, if I were NASA, is set up an award of $6,000 for the first person to go to Mars and come back in one piece.

And if NASA's willing to do this, I for one would throw my hat into the ring.

Re:Ok, what about this: (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084150)

Hey, if I'm going into space in a Winnebago, I'd better have a Mog for a copilot. Where are you going to find one of those here on earth? It's a catch 22.

Re:Ok, what about this: (1)

halo8 (445515) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084587)

wow, thats like sooo stupid it could work.

Biosphere 3? (4, Interesting)

johnjay (230559) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083539)

Create an almost entirely closed environment (receiving only heat and sunlight from outside), that is able to support human life indefinitely.

I know the name is cringe-worthy, but (I think) it hasn't been done successfully yet, and it needs to be.

i see... (3, Insightful)

acceber (777067) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083553)

...enrich NASA research by reaching new communities. Help address traditional technology development obstacles...
But the overview states that only US citizens who are not federal employees can enter. It is certainly limiting its goals of reaching new communities to enrich their research and only disadvantages NASA since they will be restricting themselves against potentially landmark innovations in science from other areas of the world.

Innovations which address obstacles which have stood in the way of technological development in science would be of highest priority, were I to enter. Barriers in science such as the claim that NASA don't have the technology to fit a de-orbit module [proboards2.com] onto the Hubble so that it's eventual re-entry into earth doesn't threaten human lives, could be avoided. It would save a lot of time, money and other valuable resources including human labour if future obstacles were addressed in the design of new scientific material, instead of attempting to tackle the problem when its too late.

Re:i see... (1)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083625)

Wouldn't someone from overseas just need to find a sponser who is a US citizen?

I heard some guy from Nigeria is looking for a sponser, but that might be something else.

Re:i see... Make it INTERNATIONAL (1)

javcrapa (594448) | more than 10 years ago | (#9085482)

TRUE! why only us citizens? if they opened the contest to any other friendly country that doesn't has a space program, many great ideas will come! people from other places think, live, solve problems differently!

So, um .. (2, Funny)

Bitmanhome (254112) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083556)

They're running a contest to find more contests? Will there be another contest to determine the prize for this contest?

fr0st 4ist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083570)

started work on was At the same

How about... (1)

catdevnull (531283) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083590)

...maybe a prize for "quality control" on some of those space craft, eh?

Ironic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083605)

"download Excel spreadsheet"

Download OpenOffice Spread [openoffice.org] file.

this is slashdot?

f,rist sto#p (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9083655)

Others whAt to [goat.cx]

The Robotic Apprentice (1)

Burl Ives (139364) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083657)

Donald Trump invites 10 robots to help him run the new Trump Tower in Chicago.

"IG-88... you're fired!"

I predict the winner will be the first robot to construct a realistic looking hairpiece for the Donald.

How about.... (1)

Scrab (573004) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083662)

a way of preventing slashdotting? Lord knows it would get enough use.....

Prolonging the life of Hubble (2, Interesting)

theAmazing10.t (770643) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083672)

How about a contest to come up with ways to prolong the life of the Hubble telescope? It has been such a boon to astronomy and yet they plan on letting it just die. With some good minds out there and a little incentive maybe a safe alternative could be found to extend its life longer than is expected.

THIS FALL ON NASATV! (1)

_aa_ (63092) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083749)

It's inevitable; an "Astronaut Training Reality Show," winner gets to go on a space mission.

These contests aren't about discovering the next technological advancement. If NASA needed a new technology, they could just use the $20mil and contract it or do it themselves. No, this is all about public relations and generating interest in the space program.

The training program is already configured like a reality show, just add camera crew. Contestants have to endure countless hours of torture, physical challenges, training and conditioning, and at the end of it all Simon Cowell decides who gets to goto the moon. Or something like that.

If nothing else it would be nice to see a good documentary on the training program.

At the risk of sound crass... (1)

corporate_ai (775461) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083798)

How about a contest where NASA learns how to successfully recover Orbitors? We landed on the moon with the computing power of an Atari 2600 but the drive and ability of that era seem long gone.

How About this prize: (0, Flamebait)

mr_don't (311416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9083963)

First organization to actually help people wins! 300 million for a damn gravity probe goes a long way toward our underfunded public school system

Re:How About this prize: (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084948)

Well, since you brought up the numbers. 300 million/40 million school kids (a low estimate) comes out to $7.50 per student. I don't see how that is going to affect the school system much when the average amount spent per year per student is OVER $9,000, and increase of ess than 0.1%. I'd rather have the money going towards space rather than an inconsequentialy small increase somewhere else.

New battery contest! (2, Insightful)

bwags (534113) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084042)

I see one of the biggest things holding back the computer industry is the lack of a good battery. I want a battery that can power a laptop for a couple of years. We need more power!

Prize for detection of numerical errors (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084230)

How about some interval math implementations to alert people that hey, those numbers seem a bit out of range... they're probably not in the right units! There's nothing more embarassing than crashing a probe into Mars, except for crashing a probe into Mars because the units were wrong on the input data.

20 million dollars? Piffle! (5, Interesting)

Darth Yoshi (91228) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084328)

If you're going to award monetary prizes, why not get serious.

Jerry Pournelle was suggested the following:

I can solve the space access problem with a few sentences.

Be it enacted by the Congress of the United States:

The Treasurer of the United States is directed to pay to the first American owned company (if corporate at least 60% of the shares must be held by American citizens) the following sums for the following accomplishments. No monies shall be paid until the goals specified are accomplished and certified by suitable experts from the National Science Foundation or the National Academy of Science:

1. The sum of $2 billion to be paid for construction of 3 operational spacecraft which have achieved low earth orbit, returned to earth, and flown to orbit again three times in a period of three weeks.

2. The sum of $5 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a space station which has been continuously in orbit with at least 5 Americans aboard for a period of not less than three years and one day. The crew need not be the same persons for the entire time, but at no time shall the station be unoccupied.

3. The sum of $12 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a Lunar base in which no fewer than 31 Americans have continuously resided for a period of not less than four years and one day.

4. The sum of $10 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a solar power satellite system which delivers at least 800 megaWatts of electric power to a receiving station or stations in the United States for a period of at least two years and one day.

5. The payments made shall be exempt from all US taxes.

That would do it. Not one cent to be paid until the goals are accomplished. Not a bit of risk, and if it can't be done for those sums, well, no harm done to the treasury.

Henry Vanderbilt points out that having a prize, say $1 billion, for the second firm to achieve point (1) above will get more into the competition, and produce better results. I agree.


As Long As NASA Holds The Purse Strings .... (2, Insightful)

Doug Dante (22218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084346)

These challenges are not the same as X-Prize, as they have shifted from ones directly competing with NASA (e.g. independent, private launch capabilities) towards ones more complimentary to NASA (e.g. better Astronaut gloves, robotic insects).

If the US Government wants to encourage more independent space resarch, the Congress and President must work together to establish goals INDEPENDENT of NASA. One possibility is to simply have the Congress double the prize money for the next few X-Prizes once those details are finalized.

NASA will NOT spend its money to pay for the development of a competing private space industry.

Thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9084406)

Hey, thanks to the poster of this article. I have an idea that I really want to pursue and the money from this prize might just let me do it.

-Ben

Watch out for the ATF (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084424)

Guess the contests will have to have nothing to do with model rockets or the ATF will whine and complain.

Easy: (2, Interesting)

Mac Degger (576336) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084467)

Here's my idea: 'best plan for developing and maintaining cheap space tourism', the prize money to be invested in the application of aformentioned plan.

Capture the Flag! (2, Funny)

Cornflake Man (773993) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084674)

Hey, did'nt they leave a flag on the moon last time they were there?

Hyperspace global un-sofocator... (1)

atlacatl (161963) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084757)

As a breathing being, I'm tired of the reliance of air to survive, so I'm planning of creating a pill (or suppository) that liberates me from the old-fashion oxigen need. This will greatly reduce $ for space missions...

My ransome, I mean...grant requirements - Imagine Dr. Evil with pinky in mouth - "One, million dollars..."

Free Windows XP (0, Offtopic)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084802)

Just kidding folks. Now just settle down.

Space elevator materials (4, Insightful)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 10 years ago | (#9084961)

Easy contest to define, but maybe not so easy to win. Just specify the material properties needed for a practical space elevator, and offer a sizeable prize to the first group to present a sample of a certain size.

Also, you could offer annual prizes for the best results each year, even if they don't meet the final prize criteria. At least that'd give the research groups a short-term goal to reach for.

The obvious one... (1)

halliburton (116075) | more than 10 years ago | (#9085071)

...warp drive

Any tips for Domain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9085325)

I'm a workstudy at a local college. The domain is NT4 server with 2k workstations. Our net admin is worthless, so I'm trying to figure out a way to limit the amount of spy/adware we have on our systems, which is alot.

I'd also like to limit installations that don't quite qualify as adware, like Yahoo Messanger and Google toolbar(questionable). I've limited access to the Program Files dir, no write access. But what I'm wondering is there a built in feature for NT4 to limit installs of any kind to users? If so please respond with any tips that may be useful!
Email will probably work best if you're really generous

spite_fowl@yahoo.com

Thanks!

PS: OT problem also, I've been trying to lock down the roaming profile, so that they download the profile from the server, but no changes are made and the local profile is wiped out on logoff, This has become a tiresome delimna, I can lock down the profile on the server, but the local profile remains and causes some problems. Any tips from MS admins would be helpful!

Stark Draper Open Source Rocketry Award (0, Offtopic)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9085451)

The Stark Draper Open Source Rocketry Award [outlander.com] has been around for a while now. Here is the text:

Stark Draper Open Source Rocketry Award

I hereby, and until notice to the contrary, endow the Stark Draper Open Source Rocketry Award. This prize will consist of 3 ounces of gold or the monetary equivalent going to the next amateur team launching a vehicle to a height in excess of 200 kilometers, which in my opinion qualifies as an open source entry. These funds will be disbursed at my sole discretion.

For a an entry to qualify as "Open Source", for purposes of this prize, the team launching a rocket must make available sufficient information in machine readable form via the web to create and launch a rocket the same as the entry which travelled to 200 kilometers. The entry description should also include a description of safety procedures used to launch the rocket in question. The entry description considered must be public domain or available under a license that qualifies as Open Source according to the Open Source Consortium [opensource.org] . The manufacture of the rocketry entry should be accomplished by tools and materials that are readily available to the general public from multiple sources or are themselves Open Source.

My primary intent here is to create an award that encourages free distribution of detailed rocketry designs that can be refined by a number of individuals similar to the way Linux kernel development has harness the energies of a large team throughout the world. It is not my intent to encourage entrants to relinquish their rights to patent protection by publishing their inventions (though the act of publishing may have legal ramifications). Candidates for the Stark Draper Open Source Rocketry Award may be relinquishing substantial rights to maintain intellectual property via trade secrets (and may be relinquishing foreign patent rights if they haven't filed by the date they publish on the web). Entry descriptions may be "dual licensed" (i.e. the entry description may be available on the web via the GPL, but the entrant might still charge corporations for whom the GPL is not an acceptable license a fee to get this same material under some other license which might not be an Open Source license). I will be loose in my interpretation of what "Open Source" means for purposes of this prize (though I may endow a future prize with a tighter definition).

There are real difficulties in applying the Open Source model to amateur rocketry. I would expect that entries to this contest might be using rather different sets of tools and materials--many of which will have proprietary components. It is my hope here to provide some basic designs that will be ready when techniques like those described in Marshall Burns's "Automated Fabrication" [amazon.com] or Eric Drexler's "Nanosystems" [amazon.com] , make creation of small runs of complex machines relatively inexpensive. Still, gcc didn't need the linux kernel and BSD kernels to be ready and useful. Nor did linux need availability of an Open Source design for a microprocesser to be manufactured in quantity to be useful. I expect that over time, we'll see standards emerge for Open Source rocketry designs. I intend to revise this award description to reflect these standards as they emerge (for example, I can imagine that we might eventually want to specify that some specific Open Source tool describe the design and assembly of a rocket when we can assume that the lion's share of rocketry amateurs have access to tools compliant with specific standards). I will give folks advance warning of any such changes so that this minimally affects work that is in progress.

Background

My real goal in supporting space development is recreating the positive economic and social conditions that accompanied development of the American frontier without the moral stain of anything like African slavery, the genocide of Native Americans or the extinction of large portion of the flora and fauna of the Americas. I feel that space development does give us this possibility-and the capability to solve some basic human problems. Stories like the settlement of true frontiers like Iceland or New Zealand (stories in which the newcomers weren't displacing previous residents) are all too rare in human history. The closest parallel to what awaits humanity in space may be the story of the initial settlement of Eurasia which is only now being slowly recovered using scientific techniques.

I hope we are creating here development of a technological toolkit that can greatly enhance human freedom. In most of humanity's history, the necessities of life were provided by knowledge that could be operated by members of a relatively small community. The development of space may solve conflicts over basic resources. The combination of enhanced small scale, small run manufacturing, open source techniques and space development may provide humanity with the potential to have the benefits of industrial and cosmopolitan society without the negative side effects.

There has been the widespread assumption that space development is inherently the preserve of large governments and corporations-despite the fact that major breakthroughs in this area have (i.e. Goddard's first liquid fuel rockets) have come from people working outside major corporations or government institutions. I have never seen a really good comparison of the "bang for buck" of the governmental, corporate and small scale space development efforts. I strongly suspect that the results of such an investigation will show that the small scale efforts have been remarkably successful and influential. Small scale space development has been given up on before any really large sums of money or mass effort has been applied in this direction. This means that the real effects of such resources is still something of an unanswered, tantalyzing question.

I gratefully acknowledge the inspiration here of the Bowery Award for Amateur Rocketry [geocities.com] , and its encouragement that others endow similar prizes. This prize is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother's cousin, Charles Stark Draper [draper.com] .

Randall Burns [mailto]

Oct. 30, 2000

Substantive List (1)

justanyone (308934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9085472)

Here are my list items:
  1. COD DELIVERY / PAY BY THE KILO: NASA shall pay by the kilogram for goods delivered to the ISS. The price shall start at $5000 per kilogram for the first 100,000 kilograms delivered. No contract required, cash on delivery (COD). Goods desired can be any consumable and capital goods including liquid O2, liquid H2, military MRE's.

  2. RAIL GUN: Competition using railguns. Projectiles of various sizes in different classifications (class 1 = 1 kg, class 2 = 2 kg, class 10 = 10 kg, etc.). Prizes for longest distance, highest altitude, largest mass * altitude, most number of shots in 15 minutes, combinations of above, for each class.

  3. HIGHEST ISP: prizes for the highest ISP (standard impulse) per year's competition. Minimum Delta-V applies.

  4. OPEN AUCTION: Working on Experience Curve theory, NASA must purchase launch capability without specifying vehicle specs, and must do so in an open-outcry auction (delivery of this payload to this location (orbit), bidder must pay insurance). Payment to be made after sucessful delivery to specified orbit. Each launch shall be bid separately and compeitively. NASA will trust-fund guarantee at least a specific number of auctions will be held each year for the next 3 years to assist industry planning.

  5. NASA shall make available, for a nominal fee of $1, launch services in the form of tracking and telemetry recording/transmission, to any private launch company that has a previously proven launch capability up to an altitude of 100,000 feet.
Just some ideas here.
-- Kevin J. Rice
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