New space prizes target space elevators (New Scientist)
- Space elevators - a futuristic idea in which space is accessed via long tethers with the power needed being transmitted on beams of light - are the target of two new cash prizes, sponsored by NASA.
The prizes, announced on Wednesday evening, are the first in a series called "Centennial Challenges", modelled on the $10 million X Prize recently awarded to the first privately developed spacecraft. Winning teams will receive $50,000 in 2005 for either building the strongest strand of material or for using light to power a wireless robot up a cable.
The Spaceward Foundation, a space advocacy organisation based in Mountain View, California, will administer the prizes, which NASA will fund. The new prizes will focus on the technologies necessary to develop a space elevator. But NASA is keen to stress that the work could benefit many space-based projects required to achieve President George W Bush's plans to return people to the Moon and on to Mars.
"The innovations from these competitions will help support advances in aerospace materials and structures, new approaches to robotic and human planetary surface operations, and even futuristic concepts like space elevators and solar power satellites," says Brant Sponberg, NASA's program manager for Centennial Challenges. More here